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Powerful typhoon closing in on southern Japan

[TOKYO] A powerful typhoon was heading for Japan's southernmost Okinawa island chain on Monday, packing powerful winds that forced flight cancellations.

The "very strong" storm is set to hit the subtropical islands later in the day, packing gusts of up to 250 kilometres per hour, Japan's weather agency said.

The storm was some 270 kilometres south of the Okinawan capital Naha early Monday, moving in a north-northeasterly direction, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

After slamming into Okinawa, the storm is expected to hit Japan's main island of Honshu on Tuesday, said the agency, which has issued high wave and storm warnings.

Japan's two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, said a combined 125 domestic flights had so far been cancelled due to the typhoon.

Classes at primary and secondary schools in Okinawa were cancelled Monday, according to media reports.

Big storms regularly strike Japan, with 22 people killed when Typhoon Lionrock pounded the country last month, while another person was killed when Typhoon Malakas also ripped across the country in September.