• Kyodo

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Timber officials in the Okhotsk area in Hokkaido are setting their sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics main stadium after Kengo Kuma’s design featuring rich use of wooden materials was selected for the project.

The new National Stadium is expected to incorporate wood in the roof and pillars using products from wooded areas independently certified for responsible conservation and sustainable management.

The Okhotsk area in the eastern part of Hokkaido facing the Sea of Okhotsk is home to around 40 percent of such certified wooded areas in Japan, with a total 1.67 million hectares as of December. Japanese larch and Sakhalin fir are grown there.

Officials from the Hokkaido region are already paying visits to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which is partly funding the national project, and the Olympics organizing committee.

According to a lumber producers association in Kitami in the Okhotsk region, certified wood has been used increasingly worldwide, including for facilities at the 2012 London Games.

“Okhotsk has been a pioneer in creating an environment in Japan,” said Yasuaki Ichikawa, a senior official of the association, about the region’s efforts toward getting wooded areas certified since 2004.

A large volume of wood products will be used for the Tokyo stadium, which is themed “trees and green.” Taisei Corp., a general contractor involved in its design, said the use of certified wood was already envisioned in the design competition stage.

Certified wood remains relatively unknown and growing timber that meets certification criteria is costly, according to Ichikawa. But their prices are more or less competitive with those of general wood, he said.

According to the Forestry Agency, timber certification typically covers domestic and international law compliance, monitoring of wooded areas and timber production, long-term and short-term plans for forestry business management and consideration for the environment and local communities.

The association hopes the Tokyo Games will boost the name recognition of the region’s products.

Lumber producers in other parts of the country are also eager to get the certification, increasing the competition.

Akita Prefecture, for instance, has also budgeted funds to push the locality’s cedar variety for the stadium project, including subsidizing costs for local timber growers to acquire the forestry certification.

“If it spreads nationally, it will be more widely known,” Ichikawa said of the growing trend for certification. “That’s what we . . . welcome.”

The central government in December selected the stadium design by Kuma, Taisei and Azusa Corp., another general contractor, after scrapping the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid’s work amid controversies over its estimated costs.

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