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Japan

2013 Assessment Findings

Japan’s imports of timber-sector products at high risk of illegality are estimated to have declined in recent years. However, levels of high-risk imports remain significantly above those of the other consumer countries reviewed, and are currently estimated to comprise 15 per cent of the total. This is considered to be due in part to the government’s limited response to the problem of illegal logging and related trade. Its approach to date has focused on ‘soft’, voluntary measures rather than establishing legally binding requirements.

The government has been actively promoting the country’s legality verification system, known as the goho-wood system, and this is helping to raise awareness of the issue of illegal logging in Japan. However, the system is not only voluntary but has serious design weaknesses which limit its ability to eliminate illegal products from Japan’s market. 

While the number of companies registered as goho-wood suppliers has increased, this may be occurring at the expense of sustainability certification, which is more demanding and expensive. The number of companies in Japan with FSC chain-of-custody (CoC) certification remains low.

Public awareness of the issue of illegal logging appears to be low in the country, judging from the review of the media coverage.

2010 Assessment Findings

The 2010 assessment found that Japanese imports of illegally-sourced wood products had fallen significantly over the period 2000 to 2008, although there was an increase in 2004. Illegal imports were 42% lower in 2008 compared to 2000, although they were still higher than those of the other consumer countries studied.

The government’s response to tackling this issue had been limited, with no formal cooperative trade agreements in place with producer countries nor any laws to prohibit imports of illegal wood. A public procurement policy requiring evidence of legality had been in place since 2006. Within the private sector, relatively few companies had chain-of-custody certification. The number was growing, albeit more slowly than in most of the other consumer countries surveyed.

The 2010 assessment recommended that an analysis be done into the extent and nature of illegal wood imports and consumption to help in further developing government and private sector responses in the country.