Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Wednesday to ensure lower domestic gasoline prices after industry ministry data showed that the average retail price has risen for the 15th straight week to its highest-ever level.

A price board at a gas station in Tokyo shows regular gasoline at 186 yen per liter on Aug. 30, 2023. (Kyodo)

Kishida also told reporters that his government will implement new economic measures to ease the negative impact of price hikes and will also seek to extend the subsidy program for oil wholesalers, which was supposed to taper off toward the end of September.

The average price for regular gasoline stood at 185.60 yen ($1.3) per liter as of Monday, up 1.90 yen from a week earlier and the highest since comparable data became available in 1990, reflecting higher crude oil prices and the effects of a weaker yen.

Kishida also said he hopes to see gasoline prices pushed down to around 175 yen in Japan by the end of October, as the economy faces downturn risks against a backdrop of global commodity price hikes.

In response to instructions from Kishida, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito drew up proposals Wednesday to extend subsidies for oil wholesalers as well as subsidies for electricity and gas beyond September.

Based on the proposals, the government is expected to make efforts to keep gasoline prices below 180 yen for the time being in order to alleviate the effects of high fuel costs on households and businesses, sources close to the matter said.

A customer fills up their vehicle's tank at a gas station in Tokyo on Aug. 2, 2023. (Kyodo) 

Other factors driving the price of gas to an all-time high in Japan include recent cuts in oil output by major producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the previous high for the average retail gasoline price was 185.10 yen, recorded in August 2008, when demand for energy increased on the back of rapid economic growth in China, now the world's second-biggest economy.

The nationwide average retail price for premium gasoline on Monday stood at 196.50 yen per liter, up 1.90 yen from a week earlier, while diesel rose 2.00 yen to 165.10 yen per liter. The price of 18 liters, or roughly one tank, of kerosene climbed 32 yen to 2,232 yen.

The current government subsidy program to curb price hikes was introduced in January 2022 amid a surge in crude oil ahead of Russia's invasion of Ukraine launched the following month, but the program has been scaled down since January this year.

Related coverage:

Japan's consumer prices rise 3.1% in July in blow to households

Japan's 3.3% core CPI rise in June adds to pressure on BOJ

Japan lifts FY 2023 inflation outlook to 2.6%, above BOJ's target