TOKYO A volcano near Tokyo erupted on Monday, spewing hot rocks, ash and a plume of smoke up to 2 km (1.2 miles) into the air and covering parts of the Japanese capital in a light dusting of ash.
There was no major damage in the volcano's sparsely populated vicinity, officials said. No one lives within 4 km (2.5 miles) of the volcano but people working in the area were told Sunday to evacuate, said Meteorological Agency official Kazuya Kokubo.
NHK public television showed white smoke coming out of the crater of the 2,568 meter (8,425 feet), snow-capped Mount Asama, which erupted at 1:51 a.m. (1651 GMT Sunday), with some grey dust near the top.
No lava could be seen from the side of the volcano, Kokubo said.
Ash drifted as far as Tokyo, about 140 km (90 miles) to the southeast.
Visibility in the capital was not affected but television footage showed residents dusting off cars and farmers worrying over ash-covered vegetables.
"I'm 65, but this is the first time this has happened," one farmer told NHK.
The Meteorological Agency had raised its warning level on Sunday after signs of increased seismic activity, telling people not to approach the volcano. Agency official Osamu Inaba said traffic in the area was being restricted.
The agency is keeping its warning level at three out of five, which warns people not to approach the volcano. Residents in cities and villages nearby have also been warned against flying rocks and ash.
Mount Asama, one of Japan's more active volcanoes, had its biggest eruption in 21 years on September 1, 2004, spewing hot rock and raining ash as far as 200 km (124 miles) away. That eruption, however, did not cause any major damage.
The volcano is known for a huge eruption in 1783 that caused widespread damage and killed about 1,500 people.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota and Chisa Fujioka; Editing by Paul Tait)