Cellulose nanofiber (CNF) was produced from Japanese cedar using a new environmentally friendly pulping process, i.e. a steam explosion treatment followed by water and acetone extractions. The effect of the steam explosion treatment on the morphological, chemical, and mechanical properties of steam-exploded CNF were clarified. The increase of steam explosion severity markedly decreased the molecular weight of α-cellulose in the steam-exploded cedar pulp. The maximum tensile strength value of 88.9 MPa and Young’s modulus value of 12.9 GPa were obtained for the films made from steam-exploded CNF at a steam pressure of 35 atm for a steaming time of 5 min. The results obtained in this work were useful for developing a new production method of CNF from various steam-exploded woody biomass.