Annual changes in gonadal maturation of female Japanese eel Anguilla japonica in sea water were investigated histologically over 5 years in the Mikawa Bay, Japan, where they occurred throughout the year except in March. Almost all immature Japanese eels (yellow eels) occurred mainly from April to September, and they were rare after November. In contrast, maturing Japanese eels (silver eels) occurred from October to February. The gonado-somatic index (IG) and oocyte diameters of yellow eels were <1·0 and 150 μm, respectively, and oocytes were at the peri-nucleolus or the oil droplet stages. The IG and oocyte diameters of silver eels were greater than those of yellow eels and most oocytes developed to the primary yolk globule stage. The numbers of silver eels lacking oocytes at the primary yolk globule stage increased after January in Mikawa Bay, although IG and oocyte diameters remained unchanged. In contrast, silver eels caught at the mouth of the bay in January possessed oocytes that had advanced to the secondary yolk globule stage. These observations indicate that oocyte development changes seasonally, especially after winter in Mikawa Bay.