A man with a knife demanding that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government resign today took five people hostage in a small bank in central Japan.

A spokesman at the Toyokawa Shinkin Bank in Aichi prefecture confirmed that a number of people were being held hostage.

He could not give further details.

The man with a knife, who entered the bank in the early afternoon, demanded food, drink and a megaphone.

Police were trying to persuade him to give up, public broadcaster NHK said.

"I want Noda to quit. I want to express my own thoughts," NHK cited the man as saying, quoting police sources.

Violent crime and hostage-taking are very rare in Japan.

Japan dissolved parliament's lower house this month for a 16 December election that is likely to return the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party to power with a conservative former prime minister at the helm.

Support for Noda's Democratic Party of Japan has sunk since it took power three years ago.

Many voters are disappointed about its perceived failure to keep campaign promises.