Asahikawa Airport is crowded with passengers after a huge earthquake. Photo: AFP/The Yomiuri Shimbun

Following a string of natural disasters, and defying expectations of growth, Japan’s export numbers dropped in September, year-on-year, according to Finance Ministry data released on Thursday.

Exports fell 1.2% in September 2018 from September 2017, whereas forecasts had indicated there would be a 2.1% rise for the month, according to Bloomberg.

Exports to China, Japan’s largest trading partner, dropped 1.7%; those to the US slipped 0.2%; and those to the EU dropped 4.1%, according to the financial newswire.

Meanwhile, imports rose 7%, reflecting higher energy prices.

In September, Japan suffered temporarily closed airports and cut power lines thanks to typhoons and earthquakes, factors which halted shipments and disrupted the supply chain.

The September numbers came amid overall slowed exports this year compared with last year. Some suspect that these numbers reflect Japan falling victim to collateral fallout from the ongoing China-US trade dispute.

Yet despite the lagging exports and rising imports, Japan still managed to post a trade surplus of 139.6 billion yen (US$1.2 billion) for September. That might not play well in Washington, where Japan is on a Treasury Department watch list.