We investigated the relationship between the binding activity to galactosylceramide (GalCer) and the arthritis induction activity of Borrelia japonica. The B. japonica strains maintained the ability to induce arthritis in inbred C3H/HeN and immunodeficient SCID mice, but the ability was lower than that of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto virulent strain 297. Histopathological changes were restricted to the joints, and a marked effusion of polymorphonuclear neutrophils into the joint space was found. The binding activity of B. japonica strains to GalCer was lower than that of the virulent strain 297 but higher than that of the high-passage strain 297. The lower infectivity and virulence of B. japonica may explain its lower binding ability to GalCer.