World markets fell on Wednesday amid concerns earnings from top companies will be sharply down for some time to come.
Investors bailed out of recent positions and camped on the sidelines to await company outlooks as what is expected to be a grim results season begins.
The market slide followed a dismal day of trading on Tuesday in the United States, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.3%.
At the close on Wednesday, Japanese share prices were down 2.69%, dragged down by the heavy losses on Wall Street and fears of weak corporate earnings, dealers said.
The Nikkei-225 index fell 237.84 points to 8,595.01. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares dropped 17.34 points, or 2.08%, to 815.26.
MSCI's measure of stocks elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region shed 3.6%.
Hong Kong share prices closed 3.04% lower. The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed down 454.11 points at 14,474.86.
The Australian share market dropped by more 2%, led downwards by banking and mining stocks and the weaker performance in the US.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 86.8 points, 2.34%, at 3619.5, and the broader All Ordinaries index shed 81 points, or 2.22%, to 3567.5.
New Zealand's benchmark index fell 44 points, or 1.7%, to close at 2569 on turnover of $101 million.
Top stocks were down. Telecom slid 12 cents to $2.37, Contact Energy was down 25c to $5.70, while Fletcher Building was 10c lower at $6.06.