R and D activities on photonic networks in Japan are presented. First, milestones in current, ongoing R and D programs supported by Japanese government agencies are introduced, including long-distance and WDM fiber transmission, wavelength routing, optical burst switching, and control plane technology for IP backbone networks. Their goal was set to evolve a legacy telecommunications network to IP over WDM networks by introducing technologies for WDM and wavelength routing. We then discuss the perspectives of so-called PHASE II R and D programs for photonic networks over the next five years until 2010, by focusing on the report which has been recently issued by the Photonic Internet Forum (PIF), a consortium that has major carriers, telecom vendors, and Japanese academics as members. The PHASE II R and D programs should serve to establish a photonic platform to provide abundant bandwidth on demand, at any time on a real-time basis through the customer's initiative, to promote bandwidth-rich applications, such as grid computing, real-time digital-cinema streaming, medical and educational applications, and network storage in e-commerce.