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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yoshino cedar transformed into unique products


NARA — Wood from Yoshino cedar trees grown in Nara Prefecture, considered one of the top three types of cedar in the country, is being made into a variety of products previously unheard of, like smartphone cases.

Lumber manufacturing and processing firms are coming up with unique products by taking advantage of the quality of wood from this tree amid declining lumber consumption in Japan.

Among them is Works Okada, a plastics processing company based in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, that has created a Yoshino cedar smartphone case. Wood from the tree is sliced into boards 0.3 mm thick and set into plastic frames. The light brown cases are softer and have a warmer, more natural feel than the plastic variety.

At a shop operated by Works Okada in Naniwa Ward, Osaka, customers can choose a pattern they like from among dozens of different grains for customized cases. What is attractive about smartphone cases made from this type of wood is that the color and texture change over time.

Masanori Okada, president of the company, said many customers are intrigued by the combination of high-tech gadgets and wood. He said Works Okada plans to use Yoshino cedar for iPad cases and eyeglass frames.

Yoshino cedar trees have been grown in Japan since the mid-14th century. However, the volume of shipments of wood harvested in Nara has fallen to about one-sixth of its peak due to fewer wooden houses being built and the inflow of cheaper products from other prefectures.

As a means of promoting other commercial uses of Yoshino cedar, local lumber companies in Nara formed a group called Yoshino Wood Product in 2006. The group has already commercialized food tongs, lighting equipment, coasters and sake brewed in barrels.

The private sector is not alone. The Nara Prefectural Government has launched a line of ballpoint pens made of cedar.

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