In a retrospective study of 503 cases of early gastric cancer, 17 of the patients had died of a recurrence of the gastric cancer and 72 had died of unrelated causes. The cumulative recurrence mortality rates were 2.2% at 9 years for mucosal cancer and 8.4% at 8 years for submucosal cancer. The recurrence patterns of early gastric cancer were hematogenic metastasis to the liver, lung, or bone (nine cases), recurrence from lymph nodes (three cases), and recurrence in the residual stomach (five cases). Submucosal cancers with a macroscopically elevated appearance, lymph node metastasis, and evidence of vessel invasion were the high-risk cancers for hematogenic recurrence, and adjuvant chemotherapy should be prescribed. Two cases of lymph node recurrence were attributed to inadequacy of lymph node dissection. Because metastasis to the group 2 lymph nodes was noted in 1.5% of cases of early gastric cancer and a macroscopic diagnosis of nodal status was inaccurate, complete dissection should be performed regardless of identification of metastasis. Five cases of recurrence in the residual stomach were attributed to overlooked lesions of multiple carcinoma and were detected at an advanced stage. Careful and regular postoperative follow-up is required to detect these recurrences at an early stage.