Hong Kong and Shanghai were the main losers ahead of the release on Wednesday of Chinese growth figures that are forecast to show a further slowdown in the economic giant.
Tokyo rose 0.62%, or 86.65 points, to finish at 13,996.81 and Sydney closed up 0.55%, or 29.3 points, at 5,388.2 while Seoul eased 0.24%, or 4.75 points, to 1,992.27.
Shanghai lost 1.40%, or 29.94 points, to 2,101.60 while Hong Kong tumbled 1.60%, or 367.54 points, to 22,671.26.
New York provided a positive lead on Monday after the three main indices last week suffered heavy losses as concerns that tech plays could be overvalued spread to other shares.
The US gains came after the government reported that US retail sales jumped 1.1% in March, better than expected. Adding to the buying sentiment was a forecast-busting earnings report from banking giant Citi.
The Dow rallied 0.91% and the S&P 500 gained 0.82%, while the Nasdaq, which lost more than 3% last week, added 0.57%.
However, despite the pick-up, analysts said a sustained rebound would be tough.
"Energy in the market has dwindled, as traders are having a hard time finding decent catalysts," Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities, told Dow Jones Newswires.
"Sell pressure has lessened compared to last week, but renewed buying pressure may take some time to gather momentum."
In currency exchange trade, the dollar rose to 101.84 yen on Tuesday, from 101.82 yen late in New York and 101.55 yen in Tokyo earlier on Monday.
The euro fetched $1.3801 and 140.53 yen compared with $1.3820 and 140.74 yen.
In Asia this week, focus will turn to the release on Wednesday of Chinese gross domestic product figures for the first quarter of the year.
A survey of 13 economists by AFP saw a median forecast of 7.3% growth in the period, which would mark the fourth slowdown in the past five quarters, putting China on track for its worst annual performance since 1990.
The results come at a time of increasing worries about China's economy, a key driver of global growth, following a series of weak data including on manufacturing and trade.
Markets are also keeping a wary eye on Ukraine as the crisis with Russia heats up again.
In the latest development, US President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin clashed in a phone call over pro-Kremlin separatists in Ukraine, who the White House says are being supported by Moscow.
Fears are growing that Russia is planning to send troops in to eastern Ukraine, in a move similar to that which saw it take over Crimea last month.
The Obama administration consulted European allies and hinted that tougher sanctions targeting Russia's economy could be looming, warning that Moscow was becoming more and more isolated.
Oil prices eased. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for May delivery, dropped 89 cents to $103.16 in afternoon trade and Brent North Sea crude for May fell 32 cents to $108.75 a barrel.
Gold fetched $1,311.35 an ounce at 0800 GMT, from $1,323.11 late Friday.
In other markets, Taipei rose 0.67%, or 59.29 points, to 8,916.71. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co closed 1.66% higher at T$122.5 while Hon Hai Precision added 0.69% to T$87.2.
Wellington added 0.25%, or 12.75 points, to 5,076.29. Air New Zealand was up 0.49% at NZ$2.06 and Warehouse Group added 0.94% to NZ$3.23.
Manila added 0.49%, or 32.11 points, to 6,621.66.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone rose 0.58% to 2,760 pesos and SM Prime Holdings added 1.18% to 15.48 pesos.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand was closed for a public holiday.