Forests cover nearly 64% of the total land area of Japan and in 2000 supplied about half the domestic demand for lumber and wood pulp. Of 24 million ha (59.5 million acres) of forest, the Japanese government owns 30%, which it maintains under strict regulations limiting overcutting. On private forest lands, cutting is less controlled. About 6.6 million ha (16.3 million acres) are reforested with trees less than 20 years old. Forest management and erosion control are urgent necessities in a land where gradients are very steep and flooding is frequent. Japan was the world's third leading producer of paper and paperboard in 2000 (after the United States and China), at over 31.7 million tons.
About 45% of the forest area consists of plantations. The Japanese cedar (sugi), which grows in most of Japan, is the most exploited species, followed by Japanese cypress (hinoki) and Japanese red pine (akamatsu). These three species grow on 10 million ha (24.7 million acres) of plantation forest and were first planted in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2000, roundwood production totaled 18.1 million cu m (639 million cu ft), as compared with 49.1 million cu m (1.7 billion cu ft) in 1965. Domestic roundwood production met 48% of Japan's total wood fiber demand that year; the rest was supplied by imports. In 2001, Japan's 11,692 sawmills processed 17 million tons of logs.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Japan became more reliant on imported wood to satisfy domestic demand. In 2000, Japan imported $13.3 billion in forest products, second only to the United States. Japan is the world's dominant importer of softwood and tropical hardwood logs, and has become one of the largest importers of softwood lumber, which is mainly used for housing construction.