Japan's trade deficit for the first half of 2012 hit a record 2.916 trillion yen ($37 billion) due largely to rising energy imports, the government said.
The Finance Ministry said Wednesday energy imports more than offset a recovery in exports, Kyodo News reported.
For the month of June, however, the country enjoyed a small surplus of 61.7 billion yen or $789 million.
The ministry said the Japanese economy has been affected by a stronger yen, a gloomier global economic outlook amid the sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and growing demand for alternative energy resources after closure of nuclear plants in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in March of last year.
The Wall Street Journal quoted economists as saying the June surplus doesn't change their forecast of an annual shortfall this year.
"We're already in the red looking at the last six months, and it's too late to regain our losses," said Hideki Matsumura, senior economist at the Japan Research Institute.
Junko Nishioka, chief economist at RBS Securities, told the Journal the country's trade balance continues to show a trend of weak exports and extreme sensitivity to import prices.