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China marks 'National Humiliation Day' with anti-Japanese protests (+video)

The 81st anniversary on Tuesday of Japan's invasion of Manchuria  brought a fresh wave of anti-Japan demonstrations, intensified by dispute involving contested islands in the East China Sea.

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Well-known Japanese firms have been targeted by protesters, with car makers Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co halting some operations after attacks on their outlets, although Nissan Motor Co said it would resume work on Wednesday after a two-day halt.

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Other Japanese companies - from Mazda Motor Corp and Mitsubishi Motors Corp to Panasonic Corp and Fast Retailing Co - also shut plants and stores in China, sending Japanese share prices falling and prompting a warning from credit rating agency Fitch that the situation could hurt some auto and tech firms' creditworthiness.

Japan's top general retailer, Seven & I Holdings, said it will resume business at all its 13 Ito Yokado supermarkets and 198 "7-11" convenience stores in the cities of Beijing and Chengdu on Wednesday.

Some firms recalled workers back to Japan due to the unrest.

"The situation on the ground in China is not so good and I was advised by the locals not to go out. I couldn't get any work done," Japanese expatriate Hisato Takase said on arrival at Tokyo's Haneda airport.

Japanese restaurants, a common target of protesters, barred their doors while many Japanese expatriates stayed home.

Tuesday's brief landing by two Japanese nationals on one of the disputed islands, reported by Japan's coast guard, has raised fears of a direct clash in an area being patrolled by ships from both nations.

"The unlawful landing of the Japanese right-wingers on the Chinese territory of the Diaoyu islands was a gravely provocative action violating Chinese territorial sovereignty," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement.

The activists briefly landed on one of the islands, having paddled up to it in a rubber raft and swum ashore before returning to the boat, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.

A flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese fishing boats is also reported by Chinese and Japanese media to be heading to the area.

In 2010, a bilateral crisis over the islands erupted after a fishing boat collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel.

The long-standing territorial dispute erupted again last week when the Japanese government decided to buy some of the islands from a private Japanese owner.

Political analysts say China also upped the stakes last week when it announced precise boundaries for waters it claims around the islands, a move sure to raise pressure on Beijing to act when it accuses Japanese vessels of violating those boundaries.

The dispute has sent China-exposed Japanese stocks down heavily on the Tokyo stock market, raising concerns about any wider impact on economic and trade ties between the two countries. Platinum prices also fell, partly on the disruption to Japanese car plants in China, traders said. The precious metal is used as an auto catalyst.

China, the world's second-largest economy, and Japan, the third-largest, have total two-way trade of around $345 billion.

There is no talk of Japanese firms withdrawing investment from China but some experts believe anti-Japan sentiment could prompt firms to rethink China investments in the longer term.

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