Police stood by as demonstrators marched in cities including Shenyang, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. They are angry at Japan's approval of textbooks that they say downplay its aggression against China in the early 20th century.
Police have been deployed in force in Beijing to prevent violent protests. Analysts interpret the absence of protests in the capital as a sign the government has full control of where and when the demonstrations occur. Joseph Cheng is a politics professor at the City University of Hong Kong.
"The Chinese authorities understand that nationalism can be a double-edged sword," said Professor Cheng. " If you allow people to march against the Japanese Embassy, then they may well march against the central government the next day for other issues."
Chinese officials deny they are fueling the demonstrations. The Japanese foreign minister planned to protest to Chinese officials during his visit.