Southern Japanes thujopsis is the only species of the genus, which belongs to the Cypress family, the Cupressaceae. Its nearest relatives are the arborvitae (Thuja), the main difference being their round cones. The most obvious characteristic of the thujopsis, however, is the shiny, scaly, almost plastic surface of the foliage, which is emphasised by the greyish-white patterning on the under surface. The rather artificial appearance has made this a popular garden plant, which is in no way diminished by the slow growth and the dense, darkly evergreen foliage.
In Japan, thujopsis was one of the "Five Sacred Trees of Kiso," whose felling was prohibited in the 1700s. The trees were reserved for use by the Emperor and his family, and for building temples. In its native range, extending as far as southern Hokkaido, the tree grows at mid-level on mountain slopes.
Thujopsis in Finland is mainly seen as cut greenery in wreaths and bouquets. It grows outdoors on the south coast, eventually reaching several metres high. Inland, it can be frozen in colder winters down to the snow line. At Mustila there are several old shrubs which have reached 1-1,5m high, and two which are tree-like in habit. Their protected situation seems to have helped them to survive the winters.