By The Associated Press
The deficit was the biggest since Japan began keeping comparable records in 1979, the ministry said.
Both imports and exports jumped to record highs.
Exports, led by autos, rose 18 percent from the year before, to 98 trillion yen ($766 billion). Imports, including oil, coal, and natural gas, rose 39 percent on year to 118 trillion yen ($922 billion).
Resource-scarce Japan imports almost all its oil, and prices for crude oil and other commodities surged last year.
The value of the Japanese yen fell against the U.S. dollar and other currencies, meanwhile, as central banks raised interest rates to fight inflation.
The U.S. dollar was trading at about 128 yen Thursday, but it has shot up to as high as 150 yen in recent months.
By region, Japan marked a trade surplus with the U.S. but racked up a deficit with China and Europe.
For decades, Japan was criticized by the U.S. and other nations for its exporting prowess, exemplified in the auto industry, which some saw as a threat to American workers. Since then, Japan has shifted much of its manufacturing production overseas.