High pump prices in Japan hit consumers amid holiday season

JIJI

Gasoline prices continue to maintain multiyear highs on the back of rising crude oil prices, mainly reflecting growing Middle East tensions, and are hitting consumers hard amid the summer holiday season.

According to the Oil Information Center, the average retail price of regular gasoline in the country stood at ¥152.1 per liter as of July 30, up more than ¥20 from a year before and remaining around highs seen about three years and seven months before.

“I plan to use a Shinkansen (bullet train) this year,” said a man in his 30s in Yokohama who usually visits his family home in the city of Osaka by car every summer.

The higher fuel prices have made him give up on the car trip, he said.

A woman in her 50s in the city of Toyama was also concerned about the higher gasoline prices. “I want to use the car amid this intense heat, but I’m trying not to drive too far.”

According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, no major changes in gasoline sales have been observed so far.

Still, since late May, the average gasoline price has been above ¥150, a threshold thought to prompt car users to refrain from driving more than necessary.

“More people may switch to public transport services from their cars for commuting and homecoming trips,” an Oil Information Center official said.

On Wednesday, a self-service gas station in Tokyo’s Koto Ward was offering regular gasoline at ¥150 per liter — lower than the latest national average price.

“My boss told me to use gas stations selling cheap gasoline as much as possible,” said a male corporate worker who was refueling a company vehicle at the service station that day.

“A rapid fall in crude oil prices is unlikely” as tensions over oil-producing countries, including U.S. sanctions on Iran and political turmoil in Venezuela, are expected to remain elevated, said an industry official, indicating that gasoline prices will continue to be high for the time being.