Before Paris: Tokyo’s Timber-Rich Olympic Stadium First in Decades

Yuichiro Shinohara, CEO and President of Shinohara Shoten will be a keynote speaker at Australia's TimberConstruct conference in August.

Tue 02 Jul 24


Less than four weeks before the start of the 2024 Olympics, dubbed the Timber Games, all eyes are on Paris as organisers put the finishing touches on almost seven years of preparation.

However, as the world looks to Paris, it’s almost inconceivable to think that the last games, hosted in Tokyo three years ago, were staged under the auspices of the pandemic.

Last week, Wood Central spoke to Yuichiro Shinohara, CEO and President of Shinohara Shoten, one of Japan’s largest timber fabricators, responsible for supplying three of Tokyo’s venues with timber systems.

“We were responsible for fabricating the main stadium’s roof (which combined steel with laminated larch and cedar trusses), as well as the tennis stadium and the athlete’s village plaza,” Mr Shinohara proudly told Wood Central’s publisher Jason Ross.

Inside Japan’s Stadium: First main stadium in generations to use timber

Completed in 2019, just before the coronavirus-postponed games, the main stadium – the first to use timber for decades – hosted the opening and closing ceremonies and the track and field events for both the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Mr Kuma is an architectural icon who has, for many decades, championed timber-based construction as an alternative to concrete – footage courtesy of @TheHavardGSD.

Designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates—who last year secured Tokyo’s top Timber Design prize for his project Green Terrace—the 68,000-seat Japan National Stadium was constructed of reinforced concrete and steel and clad with cedar panels along the eaves of the superstructure.

Reflecting on the project, Mr Kuma, one of the world’s most outspoken advocates for natural materials in construction, turned to traditional Japanese architecture and the environment for inspiration. 

His oval design features three tiers of seats beneath a partially covered steel and latticed wood roof, using more than 20,000 cubic metres of timber from each of the country’s 47 prefectures in the stadium.

“The Olympics always becomes a symbol for the era, so with the 2020 Olympics, we wanted to create something that captures the people’s thoughts,” he told CNN in June 2019. “So, we thought that the best material for this era would be wood.”

Japan’s mega-stadium hosted the opening and closing of the World Olympics 2020. Footage courtesy of @BehindAsia.

According to Mr Shinohara, the main stadium’s roof incorporated 108 glulam pieces, which combined into a massive truss system: “In total, the roof used 7,000 square metres of glulam,” he said, adding that it took about ten months to manufacture and two years to construct the stadium.

Wooden buildings surge as Japan looks to timber-based solutions

Responsible for building more than 4,000 timber time frames across Japan – and with a growing number of mid-rise mass timber projects in the pipeline, Shinohara Shoten is at the forefront of the surge in timber buildings now sweeping Japan.

Thanks to the currency exchange, “Japan is now a cheap country,” Mr Shinohara said, with the Japanese giant now working to deliver mass timber solutions across the region.

According to Andrew Dunn, Timber Construct organiser, Japan is leading the way in timber-led construction, with Japanese-owned conglomerates building giant build-to-rent projects in Australia, the US, and Europe using mass timber construction systems.

“Starting with the Tokyo Olympics (in 2021) and more recently with the World Expo in Osaka, what we are seeing coming out of Japan is remarkable,” Mr Dunn told Wood Central. “This is why we are thrilled to have Yuichi Shinohara, from Shinohara Shoten Co Ltd, who will be one of our keynote speakers at Timber Construct.”

“Shinohara Shoten is the timber fabricator that helped build Toyko Games, and more recently is working on the World Expo,” Mr Dunn said, adding that Mr Shinohara will join Nick Milestone (from Mercer USA) and Xu Fang (from SEC/APA/SFPA in China) to discuss Australasia and the Pacific Visionary Timber Projects.

Mr Dunn said TimberConstruct, Australia’s largest timber construction conference and exhibition, will be held in Melbourne on August 12th and 13th, 2024, and “is focused on materials and design, prefabrication, and building techniques.”

  • Please note: Wood Central will publish an exclusive interview with Yuichiro Shinohara later this week.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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