The shapes and lengths of copulatory pieces and vaginal appendices of the carabid beetle subgenus Ohomopterus (genus Carabus) vary among species. In Japan, the species in the group with a medium body size (C. yaconinus, C. iwawakianus, C. maiyasanus, C. uenoi, C. arrowianus, C. esakii, and C. insulicola) are usually allopatric or parapatric, except at Mt Kongosan, where C. uenoi, C. iwawakianus, and C. yaconinus are sympatrically distributed. The degree of premating isolation by mate preference was high between sympatric populations, irrespective of the genetic distance between them. However, premating isolation was absent between parapatric populations. The degree of premating isolation for allopatric populations spanned a wide range of isolation values. Thus, mate discrimination by males seems to have evolved mostly between sympatric pairs. These results suggest two hypotheses. First, premating isolation has evolved through reinforcement or through reproductive character displacement after sympatric contact. Second, premating isolation has evolved in allopatry, and as a result of premating isolation, the species can coexist in sympatry. We also examined the degree of mechanical isolation between C. uenoi and C. iwawakianus (a sympatric pair), which have a very large difference in the length of the copulatory piece. The insertion success was low and only one female produced viable offspring among 15 crosses; however, death in females due to copulation was rare. For sympatric matings between C. uenoi and C. iwawakianus, a large difference in the genital size might reduce the gene flow with small mating costs. Gene flow that was significantly reduced by genital difference might cause either the evolution of premating isolation through reinforcement/reproductive character displacement or through the maintenance of a high degree of premating isolation following sympatric contact. © 2006 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2006, 87, 145–154.