Rice paddy soil has been shown to have strong denitrifying activity. However, the microbial populations responsible for the denitrification in various rice paddy soils are not well known. In the present study, key denitrifiers were identified in six rice paddy soils by comparing the bacterial community structures in soils with strong denitrifying activity with those in soils without the activity. The effect of crop rotation on the denitrifier populations was also examined. Our study revealed three notable findings: (1) community structures of total bacteria were similar among the six rice paddy soils with different soil characteristics, (2) the populations that responded to denitrification-inducing conditions differed with soil type (Andosol, Gley soil or Gray lowland soil), (3) the populations that responded to denitrification-inducing conditions were similar within each type of soil, regardless of the cropping system (e.g. continuous or rotation).