A few days ago, I attended the annual Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) in Kyoto City. I decided to go to the Shimogamo shrine as I wanted pictures without cars and busses. Found a good spot and waited for about 1 ½ hours. The Kyoto Shimbun carried an article of this years Saiō-Dai Lady (59th), she is Miss Risako Ota (太田梨紗子さん), a sophomore at Kobe University. Ota san is the eldest daughter of Toru Ota, the fourth generation owner of the Japanese confectionery "Oimatsu." In the festival’s parade, ladies dressed in the ceremonial court robes and men in traditional costumes ride on ox carriages decorated with wisteria leaves (normally used by noblemen in the Heian period). There are 36 horses, 4 oxen, 2 ox carriages, 1 mikoshi ,and over 500 people forming the Imperial procession, making it one of the most elaborate and colourful festivals in Japan. This festival continues to transmit the elegance of the Heian Period down to the present day. Featured is a gorgeous parade in the style of the ancient Heian Court. Everything in the parade is adorned with the hollyhock leaf crest, also called "aoi" – thus the name of the festival. Hollyhock leaves were once believed to protect against natural disasters. The parade leaves the Kyoto Imperial Palace at 10:30 in the morning. The 700-meter-long parade passes Shimogamo-Shrine (下鴨神社) and heads for Kamigamo-Shrine (上賀茂神社).