Fun and games at the pumps here in Japan recently when the price of a litre of unleaded and diesel actually went down due to this bizarre governmental cock-up.

Yes, in this era of soaring oil prices, Japan amazingly, and for one month only, went the other way. I should explain…. 

For more than 30 years, Japan’s been living with this “temporary” tax on petrol and diesel to help pay for new roads and repair old ones. At the end of March, however, this “temporary” tax temporarily ran out as Japan’s two political parties couldn’t agree on how to renew it.

Result: the price of diesel and unleaded suddenly plummeted ¥25 a litre, taking regular unleaded down to around ¥125. Put another way, that’s from 74p down to 61p. Government suits and environmentalists were aghast but drivers of course loved it. Inevitably, it couldn’t last and Japan’s cabinet finally rammed through a bill to bring the tax back at the start of May.

At which point, retailers decided to get entrepreneurial as well so that litre of regular unleaded’s now up at a record ¥175 (85p) on the main Tokyo drag, although backstreet places will see it at ¥160 (78p), or less.

Top grade unleaded, which the Japanese delightfully call “hi oku” is now trading at 90p a litre or, again, 84p if you go back street.