The finance ministry data showed that the country recorded 520.3 billion yen ($6.5 billion) trade deficit in April, up from 477.7 billion yen a year ago. Exports grew in April to 7.9 percent from a year earlier to 5.57 trillion yen, helped by increase in shipments of automobiles and auto parts to the US. But imports rose 8.0 percent in April from a year earlier to 6.09 trillion yen to move the trade balance to deficit. Japan posted a surprise trade surplus of 32.9 billion yen in February while the trade deficit in March was 82.6 billion yen.
The government decided to shut down Japan's nuclear reactors following the earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that resulted in the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Since most of its nuclear reactors remained offline, Japan had to increase energy imports.