Genotype IVb of viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) was isolated for the first time in the Great Lakes basin in 2003, where it spread and caused mass mortalities in several wild fish species throughout the basin. In order to prevent further spreading of the disease and to assess risks of new genotypes invading new watersheds, basic microbiological information such as pathogenicity studies are essential. In this study, experimental infections were conducted on 7 indigenous freshwater fish species from Japan by immersion with a VHSV genotype IVb isolate. In Expt 1, cumulative mortalities in bluegill Lepomis macrochirus used as positive controls, Japanese fluvial sculpin Cottus pollux, and iwana Salvelinus leucomaenis pluvius were 50, 80 and 0%, respectively. In Expt 2, cumulative mortalities of 100, 100 and 10% were observed in Japanese fluvial sculpin C. pollux, Japanese rice fish Oryzias latipes and yoshinobori Rhinogobius sp., respectively. No mortality was observed in honmoroko Gnathopogon caerulescens, akaza Liobagrus reini or Japanese striped loach Cobitis biwae. VHSV was detected by RT-PCR from samples of kidney, spleen, and brain from all dead fish, and virus re-isolation by cell culture was successful from all dead fish. We detected the virus in the brain from a few surviving bluegill 50 d post exposure by both cell culture and RT-PCR. These results revealed that VHSV IVb could become a serious threat to wild freshwater fish species in Japan, and that some surviving fish might become healthy carriers of the virus.