Japan's gross domestic product contracted at an annualized rate of 0.6% in the first quarter of 2018, according to government data published Wednesday.
That snaps a run of eight quarters of consecutive growth, the longest Japan has achieved since the boom days of the late 1980s.
The limp first-quarter performance was spread across different areas of the economy, according to Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at research firm Capital Economics.
"Private consumption and public demand were flat while investment spending and net exports fell slightly," he said in a note to clients.
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Economists polled by Reuters last week had expected a contraction of 0.2%.
Experts have predicted Japan's economic growth will be weaker this year than in 2017.
The country faces a rapidly aging population and a lack of women in the workforce, while inflation has remained stubbornly low. Moderate inflation is good for an economy as it encourages consumers to spend.