The Tokyo Fire Department warns that choking incidents occur every December and January due to eating rice cakes, or mochi–as there is more opportunity to eat them.
Nine people were rushed to hospitals in the capital after choking on sticky mochi rice cakes on Friday and Saturday. One of the victims was later confirmed dead, according to local media today.
According to the Tokyo Fire Department, the victims are men and women aged between 70 and 93.
In the past five years, 463 people have been transported by emergency with rice cakes stuck in their throats, and about 90% are elderly people aged 65 or over.
Fire officials offer the following advise to keep safe:
- Cut the mochi into small pieces so that they are easy to eat.
- Do not swallow in a hurry, chew slowly before swallowing.
- When eating with infants and the elderly, pay attention to the state of the meal.
- Before eating mochi, drink tea or soup to moisturize your throat.
- Make sure you understand how to provide first aid in case of emergency.
Mochi is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice, and sometimes other ingredients such as water, sugar, and cornstarch. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki.
While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time.