To clarify whether beta-cell function and/or insulin resistance contributes to the shape of plasma glucose curve during an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), we investigated 583 Japanese subjects with normal glucose tolerance (NGT, n = 306) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT, n = 277). Each subject was subdivided into three shapes of plasma glucose curve as follows: monophasic pattern (M type), biphasic pattern (B type) and two peaks (T type). Homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance, quantitative insulin sensitivity check index and insulinogenic index were assessed by plasma glucose and insulin concentrations obtained at fasting or during an OGTT. There was a greater proportion of M type in the IGT group (M = 80.9%, B = 15.5% and T = 3.6%), whereas the prevalence of B and T types was much higher in the NGT group (M = 66.6%, B = 26.5% and T = 6.9%). There were significant differences in the proportions of shape types between the NGT and IGT groups (p = 0.0006). Among the NGT category, insulin sensitivity was significantly higher in the B type than in the M type, and beta-cell function adjusted for insulin resistance was significantly higher in the B and T types than in the M type. Among the IGT category, no significant differences were seen among the three shape types with respect to insulin sensitivity, but the beta-cell function adjusted for insulin resistance was significantly lower in the M type than in the B and T types. In conclusion, both impaired insulin secretion and insulin resistance may contribute to the underlying mechanisms of the shape of plasma glucose curve in Japanese subjects.