- 'Hollyhock Festival'. A festival of prayer for abundant grain harvests, elements of which date back to the 7th century. It is held every May 15 in Kyoto at the two Kamo shrines, the Shimogamo (or Kamo-wake-ikazuchi) jinja and the Kamigamo (or Kamo-mi-oya) jinja. A court messenger's procession (roto-no-gi) of ox-drawn carts (gissha), a palanquin carrying the saio (virgin princess/priestess), horses with golden saddles and around 600 participants (omiya-bito) dressed in Heian period costume all adorned with hollyhock (aoi or katsura) travels from the Kyoto palace through the main streets of Kyoto via Shimagamo jinja to Kamigamo jinja. The costumes include those of chokushi (imperial messengers). The origins of the rite are unclear but it is popularly traced to the time of the legendary emperor Kimmei (reigned 539-571), when in order to appease the two kami whose tatari (curse) had taken the form of torrential rains, men wearing the masks of wild boars rode horses with tiny bells attached up and down the shrine area.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.