The Nikkei average rose 0.61 per cent in thin trade on Monday as higher commodities prices lifted Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd, while NGK Insulators Ltd climbed after Credit Suisse lifted its target price.
Japan Steel Works Ltd hit a lifetime high after reports that China would boost its nuclear power generation capacity.
The market showed little reaction to reports that a member of Japan's cabinet had killed himself, compounding problems for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose support had already dived ahead of a July election.
Farm Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka had been under fire for a series of political funding scandals. His death comes less than two months before an election for parliament's upper house, a key test for Abe's government.
"The market dipped a bit but because Shanghai stocks are higher, investors didn't sell. The Tokyo market is not moving on domestic factors now," said Naoyuki Torii, a general manager and strategist at Fukoku Capital Management Inc.
The Nikkei added 106.38 points to 17,587.59. The TOPIX index was up 0.52 per cent at 1,724.38.
Trade slowed to a crawl, with just 1.57 billion shares changing hands on the Tokyo exchange's first section, the fewest in two months. Advancing shares beat decliners by a ratio of more than two to one.
"Because US and UK stock markets are closed for a holiday, the market was thin and struggled to advance," said Kazuhiro Takahashi, a general manager in the equity marketing department of Daiwa Securities SMBC Co Ltd.
In the metals sector, Sumitomo Metal Mining rose 3.2 per cent to 2,760 yen as copper and other commodity prices jumped. Mitsubishi Materials Corp., the top nonferrous metal smelter, added 1.7 per cent to 615 yen.
Japan Steel Works surged 7.1 per cent to 1,683 yen after earlier hitting an all-time high of 1,709 yen. The Yomiuri newspaper reported that China plans to boost its nuclear power generation capacity to between 15 and 20 times its current level by the end of 2030. The company, a small Japanese steel maker, has an 80 percent global market share in steam generators for nuclear power plants.
NGK Insulators, a maker of insulators for power utilities, jumped 4.8 percent to 2,730 yen after Credit Suisse raised its target price for the stock to 3,450 yen from 2,710 yen.
(Additional reporting by Tokyo Equities Desk)