Learn first aid before eating rice cakes, say Japanese authorities, as nine people choke to death on the festive foodstuff

Mochi, made from pounded rice, are a seasonal delicacy in Japan

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The Independent Online

Nine people across Japan have died after choking to death on traditional New Year rice cakes, prompting officials in the country to advise people learn first aid before eating the festive morsels.

Cakes made from pounded sticky rice, called Mochi, are a popular treat around Japanese New Year, with a seasonal popularity akin to mine pies in Britain.

They are often decorated in bright pastel colours and given out for free at Shinto shrines, which Japanese people traditionally visit for New Year.

But the cakes, which are usually served grilled or in a broth with sweet beans, appear to get stuck in people’s throats with alarming regularity.

Authorities are warning people buying the cakes to eat them slowly and carefully.


The country’s Yomiuri newspaper reported late last week that 128 people had been rushed to hospitals around the country from choking on festive mocha.

Nine of those people had died as a result, it said.

In Tokyo, the country’s capital, 18 people were taken to hospital in the first three days of the year, with three of those people dying, according to the city’s fire service.

The department advised people cut the cakes into small pieces, chew them slowly, and learn how to perform basic first aid before indulging.