A police officer fatally shot a man armed with a knife during a confrontation at the man's house in Niigata on Friday night, northwest of Tokyo, police said.

The officer fired his pistol once, hitting the 37-year-old in his chest at around 8:50 p.m. The man was pronounced dead at a hospital about two hours later.

In Japan, a country with strict gun control, it is relatively rare for a police officer to fatally shoot a suspect, particularly one who is not carrying a firearm.

Hiroaki Shimizu, head of the personnel and training department of the Niigata prefectural police, said the use of a handgun was appropriate in this case, although it is regrettable that the man died.

According to the police, three officers were dispatched to the residence after receiving a call about a mentally unstable man, the caller's brother, who was holding a knife.

The three saw the armed man in the entryway of the house. They drew their handguns on him and warned him to drop the weapon.

But the man pointed the knife blade at the police and advanced to within about 2 meters of the officers, whereupon one of them fired.