Japan’s Tree Switch: Millions of Cypress Cut for Planet’s Health!

New policy is a win-win for health and timber construction.

Wed 05 Jun 24


Japan is ramping up its war on hay fever after the government vowed to cut artificial forests, or plantation forests, by 20% over the next decade – and will use the felled trees to ramp up high-value timber production.

It comes one year after Japan launched its policy to cut cedar pollen by 50% by 2053 in their bid to tackle Hay Fever, which is now impacting 40% of the country’s total population.

“It’s crucial to keep a strong focus on the issue and steadily implement policies as this isn’t a problem that can be solved instantly,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the time of the policy launch last year, with the new 10-year plan approved as part of a meeting of the cabinet yesterday.

According to the report, Japan is now in a position to capitalise on the surge of artificial forests created after the Second World War – rising from 5 million hectares pre-war to more than 10 million in 1949, by using felled timber to fuel its timber economy—a win-win for construction and health.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks at a meeting of ministers concerned with hay fever at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo. (Photo Credit: Japanese Government)

Japan is the world’s fourth largest consumer of timber products—behind only China, the US, and the EU—with more than 67 million cubic metres in 2011 alone. As part of its new policy, “Promotion for the Use of Wood in Public Buildings,” the Kishida government is revising its Building Standards Law to encourage cedar use in buildings.

The policy, which came into effect in April this year, is part of the government’s push to increase the use of Japanese domestic wood in buildings up to three storeys and 3000 square metres in footprint.

Last year, Wood Central reported that timber buildings were rising across Japan, with government officials pushing for Japanese timbers to be used in constructing all 2025 World Expo exhibits – including Kansa’s ‘giant roof,’ on its way to becoming the world’s largest timber structure.

The organisers of the World Expo have today released new images showing the wooden ring starting to take shape. (Photo Credit: Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai Official Twitter)
The organisers of the World Expo have today released new images showing the wooden ring starting to take shape. (Photo Credit: Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai Official Twitter)
Scientists may have cracked the code on pollen.

Last year, researchers pinpointed the gene that deprives Japanese cedar trees of their ability to produce pollen, carving out a future in which no one will suffer from hay fever. Scientists from Niigata University and the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute presented their achievements at a Japanese Society of Breeding conference.

Using gene editing, Japanese researchers are hopeful that pollen-free cedar trees could be bred in the future.

“Only one of all the cedar’s more than 10 billion bases has turned out to be a deciding factor behind the presence of pollen,” said Hiroyuki Kakui, a specially appointed assistant professor of thremmatology at the university. “Using genome editing can remove pollen from cedar, which is useful as construction material.”

One in every 5,000 cedar trees undergoes a genetic mutation so as not to produce pollen. Thus, the team of researchers compared the DNA of more than one cedar. The results showed that the gene called TKPR1 works aggressively in male flowers, and one of the gene’s 1,002 bases decides whether pollen can be generated.

Applying the normal TKPR1 gene from cedar to a pollen-free thale cress in a test-produced pollen. At the same time, the base’s control rendered it impossible to release pollen, according to the researchers.


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