Enterovirus 71 (EV71) is known as one of the major causative agents of hand, foot and mouse disease (HFMD) and is also associated with neurological manifestations such as aseptic meningitis, polio-like paralysis and encephalitis. Recently, large HFMD outbreaks, involving severe neurological complications, have been experienced in Malaysia, Taiwan and some other countries in the Western-Pacific region. To investigate the genetic diversity of EV71 isolates in a single community in Japan, nucleotide sequences of the VP4 region of 52 EV71 isolates in Yokohama City from 1982 to 2000 were determined and the phylogenetic relationship was compared with other referential EV71 strains in Japan and in the world. There were two major genotypes of EV71 in Yokohama City through the 1980's and 1990's. Six EV71 isolates in the early 1980's in Yokohama City were closely related to those from HFMD outbreaks in Japan and from outbreaks of polio-like paralysis in Europe in the 1970's. During recent HFMD outbreaks in 1997 and 2000, two distinct genotypes of EV71 were co-circulating in Yokohama City as in HFMD outbreaks in Malaysia and Taiwan. However, the genetic diversity of EV71 in Yokohama City was not directly correlated with the severity of HFMD. The results confirmed the circulation of two distinct genotypes of EV71 over the past 20 years in Japan.