Caucasian type 2 diabetic patients with microalbuminuria (MA) or overt nephropathy (ON) show greater heterogeneity of renal lesions than type 1 diabetic patients. We examined whether a similar situation exists in 30 Japanese type 2 diabetic patients [21 male, age 48 ± (SD) 8 years, known duration 11 ± (SD) 8 years] without definable renal disease other than diabetic nephropathy. Six patients were normoalbuminuric (NA), 11 MA, and 13 had ON. Normal controls were 9 age-matched Japanese living-related renal transplant donors. Electron microscopic morphometry was performed on renal biopsy specimens and related to renal function. Glomerular basement membrane width and mesangial fractional volume [Vv(Mes/glom)] were increased in all type 2 diabetic patients groups (NA, MA, ON) as compared with normal controls. The Vv(Mes/glom) correlated directly with urinary albumin/creatinine. However, Vv(Mes/glom) as well as glomerular basement membrane width overlapped among the three functional categories (NA, MA, ON) and normal controls. In conclusion: (1) similar to Caucasian type 2 diabetic patients, Japanese type 2 diabetic patients have greater heterogeneity of renal structure than Caucasian type 1 diabetic patients, and (2) urinary albumin is not a reliable indicator of underlying renal structure in Japanese type 2 diabetic patients.