A new classification of adenocarcinoma (ADC) was proposed by the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, the American Thoracic Society, and the European Respiratory Society (IASLC/ATS/ERS) in 2011. The present study evaluates its prognostic value in stage I disease of Japanese cases. One-hundred-and-seventy-nine cases with pathological stage I ADC were classified according to the new classification system and their association with disease recurrence was analyzed. Eighteen (10.1%) and 24 (13.4%) cases were adenocarcinoma in situ (AIS) and minimally invasive adenocarcinoma (MIA), respectively. One-hundred-and-thirty-seven cases (76.5%) were invasive adenocarcinoma (IVA), in which 43 (24.0%) were lepidic (LEP), 59 (33.0%) were acinar (ACN), 16 (8.9%) were papillary (PAP), 1 (0.6%) was micropapillary (MPAP), 12 (6.7%) were solid predominant subtypes (SOL), and 6 (3.4%) were invasive mucinous adenocarcinoma (MUC). The5-year disease-free survivals (DFS) of patients with AIS and MIA were 100%. Those of LEP, ACN, PAP, SOL and MUC were 93.5%, 83.7%, 75.0%, 44.4% and 62.5%, respectively. Multivariate analysis showed that high-histological grade (SOL, MPAP, MUC) had an independent prognostic value to predict post-operative recurrence (HR 3.661, 95% CI 1.421–9.437, P = 0.007). In conclusion, the present study demonstrates a prognostic value of the 2011 IASLC/ATS/ERS classification of ADC in Japanese cases.