Japan has held on to its status as the world's second largest economy, but China is drawing level and is expected to overtake Japan in not too distant future.
The BBC reports Japan's economy grew by a better-than-expected 1.1% in the final quarter of last year, according to official figures. This is the equivalent of an annualised increase of 4.6%.
Despite the growth in October to December, however, the economy contracted by 5% over the whole of 2009.
China now rivals Japan for the rank of the world's second-biggest economy, and is on course to overtake Japan. China's economy expanded by 8.7% in 2009.
Japan's return to growth has been led by exports, particularly to China, which is now its largest overseas market.