Serial changes in hepatitis A virus (HAV) and B virus (HBV) markers were determined from 1970 to 1996 in healthy Japanese residents of a rural area of Okinawa, Japan. All 190 serum samples taken in 1970, 791 in 1980, 708 in 1988, and 523 in 1996 from residents 0 to more than 60 years of age were tested for antibody to HAV (anti-HAV), antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc), and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). The age-adjusted prevalences of anti-HAV and anti-HBc decreased significantly from 83.9% and 74.9%, respectively, in 1970 to 39.7% and 36.6%, respectively, in 1996. In residents < or = 29 years of age, the prevalences of anti-HAV and anti-HBc decreased significantly from 65.3% and 83.8%, respectively, in 1970 to 0.7% and 8.2%, respectively, in 1996. The age-adjusted HBsAg prevalence decreased significantly from 8.2% in 1980 to 4.1% in 1988. These results indicate that exposure to HAV and HBV infections among Okinawa residents less than 29 years of age is decreasing, probably because of improvements in socioeconomic conditions since 1970. Infection with HBV may be eliminated there in the near future.