Larvae, juveniles, and adults of Japanese anchovy, Engraulis japonicus, were distributed throughout the Kuroshio-Oyashio transition region off northern Japan as far offshore as 170°E in 1996 and 1997. The growth trajectories of individual larvae and early juveniles were backcalculated using the biological intercept method based on the allometric relationship between otolith radius and somatic length. Mean larval growth rates ranged from 0.49 to 0.71 mm day–1 in the transition region, and were comparable to those reported from the Pacific coastal waters of central Japan, which is the principal distribution range of E. japonicus. In terms of growth, the Kuroshio-Oyashio transition region seemed to be a favourable nursery area for larval E. japonicus. Larval growth tended to decline from the inshore to the offshore waters in the transition region. Thermal conditions did not show an inshore–offshore trend in the survey area and did not explain the longitudinal trend in growth rates.