The concentrations of Cd, Cr, Cu, Mo, Ni, Sb, U, V, and Zn were measured in early Quaternary sediment (1.32 to 1.08 Ma) from the Oki Ridge in the Japan Sea. The elements were partitioned between a detrital fraction, composed of terrigenous and volcaniclastic aluminosilicate debris, and a marine fraction, composed of biogenic and hydrogenous debris derived from seawater. The most important factors controlling minor-element accumulation rates in the marine fraction were (1) primary productivity in the photic zone, which largely controlled the flux of particulate organic-matter-bound minor elements settling through the water column and onto the seafloor, and (2) bottom-water redox, which determined the suite of elements that accumulated directly from seawater. This marine fraction of minor elements on Oki Ridge recorded six periods of high minor-element abundance. Assuming a constant bulk sediment accumulation rate, each period lasted roughly 5,000 to 10,000 years with a 41,000-year cycle. Accumulation rates of individual elements such as Cd, Mo, and U suggest sulfate-reducing conditions were established in the bottom water during the 10,000-year periods; accumulation rates of Cr and V during the intervening periods are indicative of less reducing, denitrifying conditions. Interelement ratios, for example, Cu:Mo, V:Cr, and Sb:Mo, further reflect bottom-water instability, such that bottom-water redox actually varied from sulfate reducing to denitrifying during the periods of highest minor-element accumulation rates; it varied from denitrifying to oxidizing during the intervening periods. Sediment lithology supports these interpretations of the minor-element distributions; the sediment is finely laminated for several of the periods represented by Cd, Mo, and U maxima and weakly laminated to bioturbated for the intervening periods. The geochemistry of this sediment demonstrates the unambiguous signal of Mo, principally, but of several other minor elements as well in recording sulfate-reducing conditions in bottom water. The forcing function that altered their accumulation, that is, that altered primary productivity and bottom water redox conditions, is problematic. Currently held opinion suggests that O2 depletion was most strongly developed during glacial advances. Low sea level during such times is interpreted to have enhanced primary productivity and restricted bottom-water advection.