The Nikkei index inched up 0.03% to close at 29,036.56, while the broader Topix gained 0.11% to 1,919.74.
Nikkei rallied to a 30-year high last month on expectations of a swift economic rebound and robust corporate earnings. Fund houses are booking profits before the fiscal year ends this month.
“This is all about the move toward the fiscal year end,” said Shoichi Arisawa, general manager for investment research department at IwaiCosmo Securities.
“Pension and other funds are trying to cut their stock holdings that increased during the rally. The sell-off will continue throughout the month and this will weigh on indexes.”
Technology shares rose, tracking an about 4% gain in tech-heavy Nasdaq in its biggest single-day rise since Nov. 4, as U.S. bond yields retreated.
Fanuc, which gained 3.35%, was the biggest contributor to the Nikkei, followed by phone operator KDDI , which rose 3.44%. Chip testing equipment maker Advantest rose 2.34% and Sony rose 1.76%.
Terumo changed its course to fall 0.33% after rising on the news that the medical equipment maker has developed a new syringe that can get seven doses out of each vial of COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer Inc.
Steel and mining sectors fell the most among the 33 sector sub-indexes on Topix, with JFE Holdings, Kobe Steel and Nipon Steel dropping 3.4%, 3.32% and 2.54%, respectively.
Index heavyweights Fast Retailing, a Uniqlo brand clothing shop operator, lost 2.41% and online medical platform M3 fell 6.19%. (Reporting by Junko Fujita; Editing by Rashmi Aich)