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World Music Celebrations: Moja Okuri, & Battle Of The Oranges

Wikimedia Commons
Senso-ji temple at night.

Each week on World Music (Saturday nights from 8-10 on KSTX 89.1 FM), I take a look at celebrations happening around the world. This week in Japan, devils with glowing torches bring good health, and Italy hosts the Battle of the Oranges. Read more about these unique festivals below, and see video of past celebrations!


On January 18th, hundreds will gather at the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo. This is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist Temple. Founded in 628 as a place to worship the Goddess Kannon, there’s a different spectacle which takes place for about 15 minutes around 5pm.

In the courtyard there’s a boiling cauldron of incense, two devils appear carrying long lit torches. They run around the temple, smashing their torches on the ground. Showers of burning sparks fly around in the air, and if you’re lucky enough to be touched or burnt by them, then you will be healthy for the remainder of the year. (Don’t worry about the burn, it will eventually heal).

Nippon Chronicles - Moja Okuri from thirteen itches on Vimeo.


Long ago in Portugal, in the 16th century, people were dying from the plague. Someone had the great idea of making an offering to Saint Sebastian to intervene on their behalf. Lo and behold, the bread offerings did the trick, and the plague disappeared. However, the folk became complacent and ceased their annual offerings. Some years later, they were afflicted with another plague.

Ovens went into overdrive and more loaves were produced. Since 1753, bread is baked every year and again offered to Saint Sebastian. It is brought to the church by young girls attired in white with colored sashes, carrying the loaves on their heads for the Festa das Fogaceiras.


Throwing vegetables and fruit at people can be quite therapeutic. At least, that’s how advocates of the Battle of the Oranges in Ivrea, Italy, view this re-enactment of a travesty which occurred in 1194. A dastardly Baron attempted to deflower a young woman on the eve of her wedding. She not only rebuffed him, but brought his decapitated head to a window and displayed it to the peasants below. Today the battle between evil royalty and decent poor common folk does not result in any one losing their head, but many participants in the Battle of the Oranges do require some medical assistance. Those who wish to be mere onlookers are advised to wear red hats. 

You can hear more about these and other celebrations happening around the world this and every Saturday on World Music with Deirdre Saravia, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM.

Deirdre as born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and her first paid work was at the age of 10 with the BBC as an actress on "Children's Hour." She continued to perform regularly on radio and stage for the next eight years, at which point she was informed by her parents that theater was not an option and she needed "real" work.