Japanese encephalitis (JE) is a vector-borne zoonotic viral disease caused by (Japanese encephalitis virus, JEV). Vaccination is the most effective way to control JE in both humans and animals. However, JEV genotype shift that the dominant genotype III (GIII) has been replaced by genotype I (GI) raised concerns about the effectiveness of GIII-derived vaccines against the GI strain infection. The phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of a live-attenuated genotype I (GI) strain (SD12-F120) of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) were compared with its virulent parental SD12 strain to gain an insight into the genetic changes acquired during the attenuation process. SD12-F120 formed smaller plaque on BHK-21 cells and showed reduced replication in mouse brains compared with SD12. Mice inoculated with SD12-F120 via either intraperitoneal or intracerebral route showed no clinical symptoms, indicating a highly attenuated phenotype in terms of both neuroinvasiveness and neurovirulence. SD12-F120 harbored 29 nucleotide variations compared with SD12, of which 20 were considered silent nucleotide mutations, while nine resulted in eight amino acid substitutions. Comparison of the amino acid variations of SD12-F120 vs. SD12 pair with those from other four isogenic pairs of the attenuated and their virulent parental strains revealed that the variations at E138 and E176 positions of E protein were identified in four and three pairs, respectively, while the remaining amino acid variations were almost unique to their respective strain pairs. These observations suggest that the genetic changes acquired during the attenuation process were likely to be strain-specific and that the mechanisms associated with JEV attenuation/virulence are complicated.