Packing winds of nearly 80 mph, Typhoon Pabuk churned toward Japan on Monday, forcing cancellation of domestic flights, halting ferries to South Korea and threatening to delay a rocket launch.
More than 70 homes had been flooded on Amami O Shima island in southwestern Japan, and weather officials said the slow-moving storm resembled a 1994 typhoon that caused casualties and heavy damage.
The Meteorological Agency warned that Typhoon Pabuk--a Laotian word for a large freshwater fish--could make a direct strike on western Japan late today or early Wednesday and then head north along the main island of Honshu.
One casualty could be the maiden launch of Japan's next-generation H-2A rocket, set for the weekend.
The rocket program is already under a storm cloud after the failed launches of two prototypes and the specter of funding cuts by a reformist government trying to stem wasteful public spending.
Up to 12 inches of rain are expected by midday today in some areas of southwestern Japan.