A total of 14 people in the Tokyo area were taken to hospitals after choking on mochi rice cakes, of these 14, two died.
According to the Tokyo Fire Department, both of the people that died were male. One was an 81-year old resident of Itabashi Ward, who at a little after 1 p.m. on January 1st was eating the mochi filled soup traditionally consumed during the New Year’s holidays, ozoni, when he choked and was taken to a nearby hospital. He was confirmed to be dead shortly after his arrival. The other man who died was 60-years old and choked while eating mochi in his Kita Ward home.
The 14 people who were taken to hospitals ranged in age from 28 to 89.
The Tokyo Fire Department is advising people to cut mochi into small bite-size pieces and to chew thoroughly before swallowing.
Mochi is probably the most famous of the various foods traditionally consumed in Japan during the New Year’s holidays. As delicious as it can be it’s also notorious for being extremely chewy and difficult to swallow. At the beginning of every year there are always reports of people choking to death while eating mochi. The truly ironic thing is that one of the reasons why people eat mochi during this time of year is that it its ability to stretch without breaking is seen as auspicious and representative of having a long life. Unfortunately, it’s this same stretchy and hard to chew consistency that every year causes people to choke and ends up cutting their lives short. If you’d like to know more about this delicious but somewhat dangerous food, I recommend reading this very interesting and in-depth article from The Japan Times.