To examine secular trends in the incidence and mortality of gastric cancer in a Japanese community, Hisayama, we established three study-cohorts of Hisayama residents aged ≥40 years in 1961 (1637 subjects), 1974 (2054), and 1988 (2602). Each cohort was followed up for ten years. The age-standardized mortality from gastric cancer significantly decreased from 2.4 per 1000 person-years in the first cohort to 0.8 in the third cohort for men, and from 1.0 to 0.2, respectively, for women (p < 0.01 for trend in both sexes). The five-year survival rate after gastric cancer significantly improved from the first (32.6%) to the third cohort (73.0%, p < 0.01) for men and from 43.2% to 72.3% (p < 0.05), respectively, for women. The age-standardized incidence of cancer in men was not different among the cohorts (4.3 per 1000 person-years in the first, 5.0 in the second, and 4.9 in the third cohort), while it decreased significantly in women (2.0, 1.8, and 1.2, respectively, p < 0.01 for trend). In conclusion, our findings suggest that in a Japanese population, the mortality from gastric cancer declined during the past 40 years, due mainly to the improvement of survival in both sexes and a decrease in the incidence for women.