The number could rise further as rescue efforts continue, officials say.
The magnitude 7.6 quake struck on Monday afternoon near the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, triggering the country’s first major tsunami warning since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that had about 18,500 people declared dead or missing in the northeast.
Speaking on Tuesday, Kishida said “extensive damage” had been confirmed with the quake bringing down buildings and triggering fires.
Casualties were “numerous” he said, adding that it would be a “race against time” to rescue victims.
Authorities said rescue efforts had been hindered by damaged roads and that they were finding it difficult to assess the full extent of the fallout.
However, the initial tsunami warning, which was later downgraded, was lifted on Tuesday morning.
In Suzu, a coastal town of just over 5,000 households near the quake’s epicentre, as many as 1,000 houses might have been destroyed, according to its mayor Masuhiro Izumiya.
“The situation is catastrophic,” he said.