A nationwide, multicenter study of typical retinitis pigmentosa (RP) was carried out in collaboration with 18 hospitals throughout Japan to obtain current information for genetic counseling. We analyzed the genetic heterogeneity of RP based on the parental consanguinity of 434 probands registered during a 6-month period in 1990. A gradual decline in the frequency of consanguineous marriage was recognized among the normal parents of RP patients. The relative frequencies of inheritance patterns were estimated as: autosomal recessive, 25.2%; autosomal dominant, 16.9%; X-linked, 1.6%; and simplex, 56.3%. A comparison of these results with previous reports in Japan revealed a decline in the relative frequency of autosomal recessive cases and an increase in simplex cases. This suggests a decrease in the incidence of autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa in Japan, as well as the necessity for exhaustive investigations aimed at identifying inheritance patterns for RP patients seeking genetic counseling.