The first Japanese ethics committee for biomedical research involving human subjects was established at Tokushima University in 1982. Although this committee was not formed as a response to national directives, the government eventually developed ethical guidelines, such as the Ethical Guidelines for Clinical Studies that were established in 2003. The practical impact of such guidelines was a rapid increase in the number of protocols seeking ethics committee approval and, accordingly, an increase in the workload of ethics committees. This review describes the activity of the ethics committee at Tokushima University during the last thirty years and discusses the infrastructure that best supports the activities of this committee. In addition, we address the issues that ethics committees now face and discuss future directions. J. Med. Invest. 62: 114-118, August, 2015.