Two new screening scales for psychological distress, the K6 and K10, have been developed using the item response theory and shown to outperform existing screeners in English. We developed their Japanese versions using the standard backtranslaton method and included them in the World Mental Health Survey Japan (WMH-J), which is a psychiatric epidemiologic study conducted in seven communities across Japan with 2436 participants. The WMH-J used the WMH Survey Initiative version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) to assess the 30-day Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Performance of the two screening scales in detecting DSM-IV mood and anxiety disorders, as assessed by the areas under receiver operating characteristic curves (AUCs), was excellent, with values as high as 0.94 (95% confidence interval = 0.88 to 0.99) for K6 and 0.94 (0.88 to 0.995) for K10. Stratum-specific likelihood ratios (SSLRs), which express screening test characteristics and can be used to produce individual-level predicted probabilities of being a case from screening scale scores and pretest probabilities in other samples, were strikingly similar between the Japanese and the original versions. The Japanese versions of the K6 and K10 thus demonstrated screening performances essentially equivalent to those of the original English versions. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.