This past New Year festival was never the best of times for about 140 families in Japan after 128 people were hospitalized and nine reported dead after consuming mochi – the sticky rice cake that is an important New Year’s menu for millions of Japanese.

Mochi, or rice cake in Japan is often glutinous, gluey, and sticky because it is usually grilled or cooked in broth or in sweet beans. Consuming this local delicacy in the greed that characterizes holiday festivities can cause many people to choke on the food, because it gets stuck in people’s throats and makes them unable to breathe.

About 18 people were rushed to a hospital in Tokyo after they choked on mochi, and three of them (males) died; but at least 128 people were recorded nationwide to have been hospitalized with nine of them dying after consuming the delicate rice cakes.

Tokyo Fire Department officials advise people everywhere to cut mocha into small pieces and chew on it slowly and deliberately, while having a lot of drink at hand to wash it down. People who love the Japanese mochi are also advised to learn first aid in case they need it, and to resort to hospitals early if they ever choke on the food.


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