Genetic characteristics of 12 Borrelia isolates from the tick, Ixodes ovatus, I. persulcatus, and the rodent, Apodemus speciosus ainu, in Japan were compared to members of the three genospecies of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato; B. burgdorferi sensu stricto, B. garinii and group VS461. The methods used in this study were the quantitative microplate DNA hybridization assay and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analyses of the flagellin structural genes and the 16S rRNA genes. The six isolates from I. persulcatus and A. speciosus ainu were identified as genospecies B. garinii using RFLP analysis of the flagellin and 16S rRNA genes. In contrast, RFLP analysis of the six isolates from I. ovatus indicated that they were different from the three reported genospecies. DNA homology studies confirmed the RFLP results. The six isolates from I. ovatus had DNA homologies ranging from 85 to 99%, whereas DNA relatedness of the I. ovatus isolate with strains belonging to the three genospecies was 50 to 64%. These results suggest that the strains isolated from I. ovatus in Japan differ from the three genospecies and should be classified as a new genospecies of B. burgdorferi sensu lato. We propose that strains isolated from I. ovatus should be classified as B. japonica sp. nov.