A volcano has suddenly erupted on Japan's Kuchinoerabu Island, blasting out black smoke and lava and forcing residents to evacuate.

A live video recording of the eruption from Mount Shindake shows plumes of black smoke shoot out into the sky, with the Meteorological Agency saying that lava has reached the ocean. They have raised the alert level to 5, calling for the island's roughly 130 inhabitants to evacuate.

Kuchinoerabu Island is located about 100km south of the southern tip of Kagoshima Prefecture and roughly 1,000km southwest of Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo they will do everything they can to make sure the islanders are safe.

"We will expend all our efforts to ensure the safety of all the residents of the island," Abe said.

Japan is one of the most seismically active nations on Earth, with over 100 active volcanoes. There has been an increase in volcanic activity in recent weeks, with signs of unrest at Hakone near Tokyo leading the Meteorological Agency to issue alerts a few days ago.