Abstract To estimate the prevalence, severity, and treatment of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th edn; DSM-IV) mental disorders in community populations in Japan, face-to-face household surveys were conducted in four community populations in Japan. A total of 1663 community adults responded (overall response rate, 56%). The DSM-IV disorders, severity, and treatment were assessed with the World Mental Health version of the World Health Organization (WHO) Composite International Diagnostic Interview (WMH-CIDI), a fully structured lay-administered psychiatric diagnostic interview. The prevalence of any WMH-CIDI/DSM-IV disorder in the prior year was 8.8%, of which 17% of cases were severe and 47% were moderate. Among specific disorders, major depression (2.9%), specific phobia (2.7%), and alcohol abuse/dependence (2.0%) were the most prevalent. Although disorder severity was correlated with probability of treatment, only 19% of the serious or moderate cases received medical treatment in the 12 months before the interview. Older and not currently married individuals had a greater risk of having more severe DSM-IV disorders if they had experienced any within the previous 12 months. Those who had completed high school or some college were more likely to seek medical treatment than those who had completed college. The study confirmed that the prevalence of DSM-IV mental disorders was equal to that observed in Asian countries but lower than that in Western countries. The percentage of those receiving medical treatment was low even for those who suffered severe or moderate disorders. Possible strategies are discussed.