The succession and phylogenetic profiles of methanogenic archaeal communities associated with rice straw decomposition in rice-field soil were studied by polymerase chain reaction-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) analysis followed by 16S rDNA sequencing. Nylon bags containing either leaf sheaths or blades were buried in the plowed layer of a Japanese rice field under drained conditions during the off-crop season and under flooded conditions after transplanting. In addition, rice straw samples that had been buried in the rice field under drained conditions during the off-crop season were temporarily removed during spring plowing and then re-buried in the same rice field under flooded conditions at transplanting. Populations of methanogenic archaea were examined by amplification of the 16S rRNA genes in the DNA extracted from the rice straw samples. No PCR product was produced for samples of leaf sheath or blade prior to burial or after burial under drained conditions, indicating that the methanogen population was very small during decomposition of rice straw under oxic conditions. Many common bands were observed in rice straw samples of leaf sheath and blade during decomposition of rice straw under flooded conditions. Cluster analysis based on DGGE patterns divided methanogenic archaeal communities into two groups before and after the mid-season drainage. Sequence analysis of DGGE bands that were commonly present were closely related to Methanomicrobiales and Rice cluster I. Methanomicrobiales, Rice cluster I and Methanosarcinales were major members before the mid-season drainage, whereas the DGGE bands that characterized methanogenic archaeal communities after the mid-season drainage were closely related to Methanomicrobiales. These results indicate that mid-season drainage affected the methanogenic archaeal communities irrespective of their location on rice straw (sheath and blade) and the previous history of decomposition during the off-crop season.