[Image: Toshiyuki Imai | Creative Commons]

During the New Year holidays, Japanese people traditionally eat mochi, which is typically translated as “rice cakes” and is incredibly dangerous for older folks.

In the West, people might know mochi ice cream, which uses thin pieces of mochi, but in Japan during the New Year’s holidays, people might put bigger (and stickier) pieces of mochi in soups or eat it with soy sauce, butter and sugar.

Mochi isn’t a cake like a birthday cake, but rice that has been pounded into a paste. [Image: JoshBerglund19 | Creative Commons]

Because mochi is so sticky, it can cause choking, which is why the Tokyo Fire Department issues warnings on an annual basis, advising people to cut their mochi into small pieces and chew slowly.

According to Japan Today, the Tokyo Fire Department reports that 13 people, ages ranging from 55 to 90, were hospitalized this year from choking on the rice cakes.


Sadly, two people died while eating mochi, up from one last year. A man in his 80s fatally choked on mochi, Japan Today reports, while another man in his 50s went into cardiac arrest. In 2015, nine people died from choking on the sticky rice paste.

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