Kamo Sai, the correct name for Aoi Matsuri, one of the 3 major festivals of Kyoto, ends here after beginning in the Imperial Palace and passing through Shimogamo Shrine. Aoi Matsuri features displays of horsemanship on the grass before the main shrine buildings.
One approaches the shrine across a large open space that is lawn, rather than the more usual gravel, and this gives Kamigamo Shrine the feel of a park.
The most unusual thing about Kamigamo Shrine is the two large sand cones that flank the entrance to the main shrine building – the Haiden. Known as Tatesuna, opinion differs as to their original meaning, but the most commonly accepted is that they represent the sacred mountain just to the north of the shrine. Small cones of salt outside restaurant entrances are said to derive from the Tatesuna. Another theory is that they were used to sprinkle on the paths leading to the shrine to purify them when a member of the nobility came to pray.
On September 9th the shrine holds the Crow Sumo ceremony (Karasu-zumo), where young boys from the neighborhood compete at sumo to entertain the gods. Before the sumo, shrine priests perform rituals while emulating the call and movements of crows, hence the name.