Traditional Comb of Nagano ”Oroku Gushi craftsman, Kazukuni Aoyagi”

Traditional Comb of Nagano
”Oroku Gushi craftsman, Kazukuni Aoyagi”

”Minebari” tree used for Oroku Gushi

Long ago, there was a woman named Oroku. She had been suffering from a disease of the head. She prayed at Gokoku Daigongen Shrine to heal her disease, and heard a divine message, ”comb your hair every day with a comb made from the ”minebari” tree, and your disease will be healed.”

She immediately made a comb from the ”minebari” tree, and combed her hair, every day and night. To her surprise, her disease was healed. This story became widely known, and the comb made of ”minebari” in this area came to be known as ”Oroku Gushi”.

Oroku Gushi is about 10 centimeters wide, and amazingly, there are 70 to 100 teeth lined up in such a small comb.
Combs made of box trees are popular, but ”minebari” is harder than boxwood. At the same time, it has an adhesive strength. Of course, it requires high level of skill in order to make a delicate comb from such hard wood.

Making large-tooth combs is more difficult

Kazukuni Aoyagi is the authority of comb craftsmen. He has been engaged in production of Oroku Gushi, which was the family business, from the age of 18, and has been developing up his skill.
However, the industry started to decline with the release of plastic combs in the late 1940s. During this period, he worked as a bus driver. He decided to return to comb-making to live up to his father’s expectations. Since then, he has been accumulating his skill of comb-making.
His outstanding technique is highly acclaimed, and he was certified as Master Craftsman of Shinshu in 1998, and as Modern Master Craftsman in 2002. He has produced many Imperial Household Agency purveyor goods, such as wooden base of the comb to be made for the imperial family’s wedding ceremony.

Aoyagi, while making the teeth of the comb, explained to us, ”It’s more difficult to make combs with less, larger teeth than combs with 100 teeth, because the bad parts are more noticeable.” Oroku Gushi is delicate, but strong as well.
Aoyagi makes Oroku Gushi, a tradition passed on for several generations, one by one.


Oroku Gushi Comb Craftsman Kazukuni Aoyagi
618-6 Yabuhara Kiso Village, Kiso Gun, Nagano Prefecture