The eclipse occurs when the Moon is at its farthest from the Earth and does not block out the Sun completely.

Millions of people witnessed the resulting "ring of fire" phenomenon.

The eclipse passed almost directly over Tokyo before sweeping just below Alaska's Aleutian islands and making landfall in the western US.

In Japan "eclipse tours" were held at schools and parks, on pleasure boats and even private airplanes. Similar events were also held in China and Taiwan.

TV in Tokyo broadcast the event live.

Light rain fell on Tokyo as the eclipse began, but the clouds thinned as it reached its peak, providing near perfect conditions.

"It was a very mysterious sight - I've never seen anything like it," said Kaori Sasaki, who joined a crowd in central Tokyo.

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic sent an expedition to the top of Mount Fuji to film the eclipse using solar-powered equipment.

"Our goal is to broadcast the world's most beautiful annular eclipse from the highest mountain in Japan," the company said.

However, in Hong Kong skywatchers were not so lucky. Hundreds had gathered along the Kowloon waterfront where the Space Museum had set up solar-filtered telescopes, but heavy clouds obstructed the view.

In the US, viewing parties were reported in Reno, Nevada; Oakland, California, and elsewhere.

Hundreds also travelled to the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was hailed as one of the best vantage points.

"That's got to be the prettiest thing I've ever seen," said Brent Veltri of Salida, Colorado.

The eclipse was fully visible across a 240 to 300km-wide swathe but partial views could be seen across much of east Asia and North America.