Specifics of the plan, including what new technologies will be required and the size of the project's budget, are to be decided within the next two years, according to Japan's Strategic Headquarters for Space Development, a Cabinet-level working group.
Development of a lunar robot is part of a broad framework outlined by the group, which is charged with plotting a new course for Japan's space strategy. As a next step, joint exploration of the moon involving robots and astronauts will be considered.
The framework is to be finalized late next month, after the public has a chance to comment on the proposals.
The group also recommended promoting research into military satellites, such as an early warning system for detecting ballistic missile launches and systems to detect and analyze radio waves sent in space.
Other recommendations by the group include using space research as a tool to foster diplomacy with other countries and developing an advanced satellite to predict and monitor natural disasters.
The Strategic Headquarters was established last year by a law passed to advance Japan's space technology and exploration. It allows the country, which has a largely peaceful constitution, to use space for military defense.
Friday's proposal was released as North Korea was completing preparations to launch a multistage rocket over Japan. The communist country says it will send a communications satellite into orbit, but Tokyo suspects the North, which has acknowledged it has nuclear weapons, is actually testing long-range missile technology.
Japan launched its first satellite in 1970 and has long been among the world leaders in space technology. But in recent years, it has been overshadowed by China, which is aggressively pushing its own space program.
In January, Japan used one of its rockets to launch the first satellite to monitor greenhouse gases worldwide, a tool to help monitor global warming.