Abstract Seventy-one debris avalanche deposits are identified from 52 Japanese Quaternary volcanoes. The structures of these volcanoes are mostly stratovolcanoes and lava domes. No avalanche deposit is found in calderas, pyroclastic cones or maar volcanoes. Debris avalanche deposits are found in 18% of all Quaternary volcanoes or 25% of Quaternary stratovolcanoes and lava domes. The ratio rises to 49% when considering only active stratovolcanoes and lava domes. At least five debris avalanche deposits have formed since 9th century. The maximum height difference of sliding ( H) for each debris avalanche ranges from 200 to 2400 meters and the maximum runout distance of sliding ( L) ranges from 1.6 to 32 km. The ratio H/ L ranges from 0.2 to 0.06, and becomes smaller in larger debris avalanches. They are more mobile than landslides in non-volcanic areas. Volume is within a range of 0.03 and 9 km 3. There is no relation between the direction of sliding and the regional horizontal compressional stress axis at the site of a volcano. Two-dimensional computer simulations of avalanches using a simplified physical model are made. The maximum velocity is mainly controlled by the length of steep slope.