By Agence France-Presse
With no direction from Europe or Wall Street -- both closed for Easter holidays at the end of last week -- Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index opened in slight negative territory but soon moved into the green.
The Nikkei 225 Index added 0.23 percent or 50.41 points to 21,504.71 in early trade, slightly outperforming the broader Topix index, which was up 0.17 percent or 2.92 points at 1,719.22.
Volumes in Asia trade were light however, with financial markets in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong all closed for public holidays.
In China, Shanghai stocks opened flat as the yuan strengthened and investors digested new tariffs on US imports.
The government in Beijing imposed new tariffs on 128 US imports worth $3 billion, including fruits and pork, in retaliation for US duties on steel and aluminium, fanning fears of a trade war.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up 0.03 percent, or 0.88 points, to 3,169.78.
Meanwhile, the Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, climbed 0.25 percent, or 4.71 points, to 1,858.43.
In Seoul, the Kospi index also nudged slightly higher, gaining 0.56 percent to stand at 2,459.54 in mid-morning trade.
Japanese traders shrugged off a dip in the closely watched Tankan business confidence report, which showed a print of 24 in March, compared to 26 in the December report.
However, analysts said the fall was due mainly to a stronger yen and they did not expect the trend to continue.
"The yen's appreciation dented corporate confidence temporarily," said UBS economist Takuji Aida.
"But the underlying sentiment is solid, as seen in their plans to accelerate spending on plants and equipment," he said.
"Looking forward, we do not see a deterioration," agreed Katsunori Kitakura, lead strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust.
"Business sentiment may see some downward pressure until Q2 2018, but should recover towards year-end" as the global economy grows, he said in a commentary ahead of the release of the latest Tankan.
Key figures around 0230 GMT
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.2 percent at 21,504.71
Hong Kong - CLOSED
Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.03 percent at 3,169.78
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.35 yen from 106.16 yen on Friday
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2326 from $1.2320 on Friday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4054 from $1.4044 on Friday
Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 30 cents from $64.91 per barrel on Friday
Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 35 cents from $69.35 on Friday (new contract)
New York - Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 24,103.11 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,056.61 (close)