Analyses of normal faults in the Kumano forearc basin of the Nankai Trough reveal multiple normal fault populations in a region generally thought to be under compression. Most faults have offsets of less than 20 m and dips of 60–70° and show no growth structures, indicating that the faults were active for short periods of time. The oldest generation of faults is older than ~0.9 Ma and strikes ~50–60°. The next oldest faults strike ~160–170°, are older than 0.44 Ma, and are related to local uplift along the western edge of the region. The youngest faults cut the seafloor; shallow faults near the SE margin of the basin curve from ~100° in the middle of the survey area to ~145° at the SE corner of the area. The pattern of the two youngest fault populations is consistent with the regional stress pattern (maximum horizontal stress subparallel to the trench). Orientations of older fault populations are caused by uplift of the underlying accretionary prism, implying that the forearc basin region is not as stable as previously thought. Reconstruction of displacements on the youngest faults shows that the overall horizontal extension is less than 2%, concentrated near the seaward edge of the basin. The active normal faults distributed throughout the basin support the idea that the horizontal stress parallel to the plate convergence direction does not reach the critical stress to activate or form thrust faults and produce horizontal shortening within the shallow portion of the inner wedge.