Japan's small industrial firms struggle with energy costs

Some of Japan's small and medium-sized industrial businesses have been struggling with rocketing energy bills since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Tamura Kougyo applies heat treatment to auto parts and other items to enhance their strength.

Its 130 workers at a factory near Tokyo process steel and other substances at temperatures of nearly 800 degrees Celsius.

Its monthly fuel bills peaked in November at 82 million yen, or more than 600,000 dollars. That's almost double the price in yen terms from before the Russian invasion.

Tamura Kougyo says soaring prices of liquefied natural gas have pushed up its electricity and gas costs.

A global chip shortage is also to blame. The company had to temporarily halt some operations when the semiconductor crunch forced automakers to reduce output. But when the situation started to normalize, Tamura Kougyo had to burn extra fuel to restart its facilities.

Company officials say they have managed to cut energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent through improved efficiency. They also plan to study whether to upgrade their nearly 50-year-old facilities.

President Tamura Daisuke says, "It's easy to talk about energy conservation. But it really means a lot of hard work behind the scenes. We aren't afraid of failure but we are going to try and do something about it."

He says he and his staff will work together by combining their knowledge.