The fully loaded bus with 41 people on board was driving from Tokyo to a ski resort in Nagano prefecture when it veered off the road in the resort town of Karuizawa in southern Nagano, according to the government.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference in Tokyo that 14 people were killed and 27 others were injured in the single vehicle crash.

Suga, the top government spokesman, said the transport ministry had launched an investigation into the accident, sending inspectors to the site.

Television footage showed the bus overturned in woods with its front window completely shattered after it broke through a crash barrier.

The bus was descending from a pass before dawn, a local police spokesman told AFP, while local media said it was carrying passengers on a tour package sold by a Tokyo travel agency.

Japan in recent years has seen several high-profile bus accidents, some blamed on drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

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