Real wages rose an annual 0.3 percent in July, the first increase since April 2013.
The data should be welcome news for policymakers struggling to sustain a virtuous cycle of rising corporate profits leading to a boost in household spending through higher wages.
Total cash earnings rose 0.6 percent in the year to July to 367,551 yen ($3,055), after plunging in June, which the labour ministry blamed in part on some firms delaying summer bonus payments.
Japanese companies, particularly small firms, have been reluctant to raise wages substantially to avoid increases in fixed labour costs.
Wage gains were lagging behind price hikes in recent years, causing real wages to slide and eroding households' purchasing power.
"July data showed a steady increase in regular pay, and summer bonuses appear to be solid. As such, we see nominal wages in an uptrend," said a labour ministry official.
Regular pay, which determines base salaries, rose an annual 0.6 percent, up for a fifth straight month and the biggest gain since November 2005.
Overtime pay, a barometer of strength in corporate activity, rose an annual 0.6 percent in July, while bonus payments increased 0.3 percent.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Richard Borsuk)