Japan's exports plunged more than 45% in January compared to a year ago to hit the lowest figure ever recorded, official figures showed.
Japan also had a trade deficit of 952.6 bn yen ($9.9bn; £6.8bn), the lowest figure since records began in 1979.
The demand for Japanese cars in particular dropped by 69%.
Demand for electronics and other goods has also slumped as global economies and consumer spending contract, pushing Japan deeper into recession.
Japanese exports to the US, which is at the centre of the slide, fell nearly 53% in January while shipments to the European Union retracted by 47%, Japan's finance ministry said.
Japan's export-led economy had previously been thought to be immune to the worst effects of the global recession, the AFP news agency reported.
The government said last week that Japan's economy was in its most serious crisis since World War II, after it contracted annualised rate of 12.7% in the last quarter of 2008.
This was its worst performance in almost 35 years, officials said.
In response the government is pushing bills through parliament to implement a stimulus plan, including a cash handout of at least 130 dollars per Japanese taxpayer, the BBC's Roland Buerk reports from Tokyo.
But any bold moves may be difficult to push through because of the unpopularity of Prime Minister Taro Aso, our correspondent says.
US President Barack Obama and Mr Aso have agreed to work together to stimulate economic demand and fight protectionism as the latter visits the US.
The US and Japanese economies are respectively the world's largest and second-largest.
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Published: 2009/02/25 03:32:49 GMT