Japan's trade minister, Hajime Tamura, traveled to Capitol Hill yesterday to try to quell congressional anger over the sale of sensitive military technology to the Soviet Union by a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp.

In meetings with Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah), sponsor of legislation that would ban Toshiba imports for up to five years, and Rep. Don Bonker (D-Wash.), chairman of a House subcommittee considering a similar measure, Tamura outlined steps the Japanese government plans to take in response to the incident.

"They were very forthcoming, but they should have been here last month," Bonker said after the meeting. Garn, reflecting the outrage being expressed in Congress, dismissed the reforms promised by Tamura, saying "they are insufficient and will not solve the problem."

Toshiba Machine Co., a subsidiary of the Japanese electronics giant, sold sophisticated propeller-milling equipment to the Soviets that U.S. officials said makes their submarines quieter and thus harder to detect.

Tamura, who arrived in Washington Tuesday for five days of meetings with members of Congress and the administration, faces an uphill struggle to head off punitive legislation against Toshiba. There are at least four bills calling for stiff sanctions against the company now before the House. The Senate approved Garn's import ban June 30 92 to 5.

"You've got a volatile alliance here, with protectionist Democrats on one side joining up with strong-defense conservatives on the other," said Rep. Philip Crane (R-Ill.), one of the few lawmakers advocating limited sanctions.

"It's more than a coalition," Bonker said. "Outrage in the Congress is near universal."

Tamura said he was "grateful" for the opportunity to put Japan's case to legislators, and said "the results will be decided by the Congress."

Asked if he agreed with a statement by Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone that Toshiba Machine Co. had betrayed the Japanese people, Tamura said, "It is a fact that I am angry with Toshiba Machine."

According to Bonker, Tamura described several steps Japan planned to take, including introducing legislation to strengthen criminal penalties for export control violations and expanding enforcement of the rules. He said Toshiba, currently barred from exporting to communist countries for a year, had offered to refrain from such sales indefinitely.

Analysts put total sales of Toshiba in this country at $4 billion. The bill approved by the Senate would exempt from an import ban components essential to U.S. production and items necessary for national security. The House is considering several bills that would impose tighter restrictions on Toshiba imports.

At a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting yesterday morning, Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), a ranking member of the Finance Committee who is generally regarded as an advocate of free trade, said, "I have seldom seen the Senate madder than they were when they heard of what Toshiba did. They regard {Toshiba} as an illicit, immoral international cheat... . The feeling of the Senate is, if we can drive them out of business, so much the better."

At the same time, there is a growing concern among some members of Congress that import sanctions cannot be imposed without cost.

Toshiba employs about 4,000 Americans in its various U.S. subsidiaries and affiliates. The chairman of Toshiba's largest American subsidiary said that some of those workers will have to be laid off if sanctions are imposed.

Representatives of a number of U.S. companies dependent on Toshiba products told members of a House subcommittee on international trade Tuesday that sanctions would seriously impair their operations.

Peter McCloskey, president of the Electronics Industry Association, said many U.S. manufacturers also are worried about establishing a principle that a parent company should be directly responsible for export control violations by its subsidiaries.

"If IBM Japan were to sell technology to the Soviets without the knowledge of its parent, would we then have to ban all IBM sales in the U.S.?" McCloskey asked in an interview.

Crane said he favors legislation that would restrict sanctions to Toshiba Machine Co. and the procurement of nonessential military technology from the parent corporation. He said a limited embargo, which would cut total Toshiba sales by about $123 million a year, would be sufficient to send a clear signal to potential export violators.