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Wood that won't burn primed for the great outdoors

With rain-resistant finish, Japan's Kagamoku aims to double sales

The interior of a Tokyo day care center made from Kagamoku lumber. Previous offerings were generally limited to indoor use. (Photo courtesy of Kagamoku)

KANAZAWA, Japan -- A Japanese company has developed a treatment that makes wood nonflammable and water-resistant without leaching chemicals into the environment.

Kagamoku, based in the city of Kanazawa, hopes to bring an updated version of its Moengen lumber to market as early as spring. The product's name means "it won't burn" in the local dialect.

Previously, there was a risk of fire retardant seeping out when the wood became wet, generally limiting its use to indoor trimmings. The new treatment allows the product to be used in outside walls and roofs.

"Outdoor uses will roughly double our market," Kagamoku President Seiichi Masue said.

The company, which seeks to start advertising the updated Moengen within the year, will hire new salespeople based in Kanazawa, Osaka and Tokyo. It also hopes to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to find overseas customers. The goal is to lift sales of nonflammable wood by around 100% to 500 million yen ($4.59 million) by the fiscal year ending September 2022.

Japan's self-sufficiency rate for lumber increased to 37% in 2018 from 19% in 2002, government data shows. The country hopes to hit 50% as forests planted during the postwar economic boom reach maturity.

But forestry managers are aging, and many lumber producers face financial setbacks. "Developing high-value-added products is important for our company's stability," Masue said.

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