Contemporary reference values for assessing skeletal maturity have been obtained for the Japanese population. These were used to compare skeletal maturation with populations from the UK. Belgium, North India and South China. Japanese children were found to attain skeletal maturity, based on measurements of the radius, ulna and short bones of the left hand and wrist, 1 or 2 years earlier than present-day European and Chinese children. A relative lack of data for the North Indian population made comparison impossible.