Japan's exports fell in March, sapped by weak shipments of machinery and chemicals, though a sharper decline in imports helped push the trade surplus to its highest level in more than five years.

Customs data reported Wednesday showed exports fell 6.8 percent from a year earlier to 6.46 trillion yen ($59.2 billion) while imports sank 14.9 percent to 5.7 trillion yen ($52.2 billion).

The balance of 754 billion yen ($6.9 billion) was the highest since October 2010.

In value terms, exports of machinery, electrical machinery and chemicals fell at double-digit paces, though car exports surged nearly 16 percent.

Imports of coal, oil, food and machinery dropped. The change was exaggerated by a recent 10 percent surge in the yen's value against the U.S. dollar, to about 109 yen.