Rain-sodden slopes collapsed in torrents of mud, rock and debris on the outskirts of Hiroshima, killing at least 36 people and leaving seven missing, police said.
Public broadcaster NHK showed rescue workers suspended by ropes from police helicopters pulling victims from the rubble. Others gingerly climbed into windows as they searched for survivors in crushed homes.
Hillsides caved in or were swept down into residential areas in at least five valleys in the suburbs of the western Japanese city after heavy rains left slopes unstable.
Hiroshima prefectural police said 36 people were confirmed dead and at least seven others were missing as of Wednesday night. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 15 people were injured, two seriously.