Japan has been on alert for strong winds and torrential rain, as a typhoon is expected to hit the Asia-Pacific nation.

A very strong typhoon was near Taiwan, about 120km south of Ishigaki Island as of 2pm local time (05:00 GMT), packing winds of 180km per hour near its centre, the weather agency said on Friday.

Typhoon Jelawat's winds are blowing at more than 200km an hour, and is expected to be one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in decades.

All flights and ships into and out of Japan's Okinawa islands have been cancelled.

Television footage aired by public broadcaster NHK showed trees bowing as heavy rain and strong winds battered Ishigaki, a part of the Okinawa chain of islands.

Jelawat was moving north-northeast and on course to hit the main part of Okinawa on Saturday before reaching Japan's southern main island of Kyushu on Sunday, the broadcaster said.

It was forecast to be off the coast of central Japan by early Monday.

A smaller typhoon, Ewiniar, was churning in the Pacific towards eastern Japan. It was forecast to come close to eastern Japan on Saturday before veering off over the Pacific.

Source: Agencies