Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has conceded defeat in the parliamentary elections and said he was stepping down as leader of the Democratic Party.
Exit polls showed the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) winning a clear majority -- some 310 mandates -- in the 480-seat lower house of parliament, or Diet.
The LDP had ruled Japan for decades until it lost the 2009 election.
Noda's crushing defeat came amid public disappointment caused by an economic downturn and last year's nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
The December 16 vote came amid tensions with China over several uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
LDP leader Shinzo Abe, who is set to become Japan's next premier, reaffirmed that the islands belong to Japan.
Abe served as prime minister in 2006-2007 before stepping down on health grounds.
Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa