Fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and polyphosphate (polyP) staining methods were used to characterize the microbial community structure of 13 activated sludge samples taken from nine different Japanese wastewater treatment plants with and without enhanced biological phosphorous removal (EBPR) activities. FISH with published rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes for important bacterial groups involving in the EBPR process revealed that Rhodocyclus-related polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) and glycogen accumulating organisms from a gammaproteobacterial lineage GB were the predominant populations detected, representing 4-18% and 10-31% of EUBmix-stained cells, respectively, in those samples. However, a considerable proportion of Rhodocyclus-related PAO cells were observed with no polyP granules accumulated based on polyP staining. This was further supported by a poor correlation between Rhodocyclus-related PAO population and sludge total phosphorous (TP) contents. In contrast, high correlations between polyP-stained cells and sludge TP contents were observed. In particular, among those polyP-stained cells in samples Ariake_A2O and Nakano_AO, more than 85% of them could not be targeted by probe PAOmix. These non-Rhodocyclus-related PAOs included populations from other bacterial divisions and members of the Betaproteobacteria other than those in Rhodocyclus-related group.