Japan Today

2 dead, 12 hospitalized after choking on rice cakes


Two people died and 12 others were hospitalized in Tokyo after choking on "mochi" rice cakes on New Year's Day, the Tokyo Fire Department said Tuesday.

Fire department officials said the two fatalities were a 60-year-old man from Kita Ward and an 81-year-old man from Itabashi Ward. Fuji TV reported that their families called 119 after they started choking on the mochi. They were rushed to hospital where they died later Sunday.

The other 12 people, ranging in age from 28 to 89, were all discharged from hospital by Monday morning, officials said.

Each year, before the New Year holidays, the National Police Agency and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency urge elderly people to be careful when eating the rice cakes during the New Year holidays.

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Here it comes...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What a way to go. ..poor people!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Every year it's the same thing.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

why not just ban these rice cakes altogether! i understand it is tradition and all but if people die each year maybe it is best.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

These people must have been surrounded by people who did not know the "Heimlich maneuver". Everyone else who was survived.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

29 Elderly?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Pat I've eaten Mochi when I've been in Japan, and to be honest with you its so sticky I don't think that even if other people had used the Heimlick procedure, I don't think that it would shift the blockage. Either way its very sad for this time of year.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Makes me wonder how many people choke on normal food on other days. I bet the mochi numbers are not really significant

9 ( +10 / -1 )

You can't ban mochi because they aren't buying it, they're making at home themselves with mochi machines every new year for tradition..

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Very sad for them and their families. Statistically, though, only two - that's not bad. And the 60-yer-old - well, that's not old. Chances are he was not a careful eater on any day.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Like clockwork. The "it'll never haven to me" syndrome is such a sad thing to have, and this canNOT be a nice way to die. Heimlich wouldn't work, by the way. Mochi should be banned, and mochi-making as well. I know it's tradition, but when it kills people EVERY time it's not really a tradition worth keeping. Families should be told that if they make mochi and do not cut it up, and someone dies, they will be held criminally responsible. Sorry, but again, when people are dying and everyone KNOWS it's a distinct possibility, there is no reason why it should be legal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not again!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I made mochi with the family on the 30th, and they have been eating it ever since. They grow their own rice and it is a deeply rooted and loved tradition hereabouts. I like the anko mochi when it is fresh and hot and my mother in law does make great anko, I'll concede that. But that's about where it ends for me. The bloody family go mad for it - you'd think it's the world's greatest food the way they carry on. I certainly don't see why it should be fed to young kids or the elderly. They aren't missing much at all and it's just too dangerous.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

on the first day of the new year I have to read the same news time and again, I hate such traditions and social customs which takes lives.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Makes me wonder how many people choke on normal food on other days. I bet the mochi numbers are not really significant

I was wondering the same. I couldn't find very clear data. Apparently, in 1999 in the UK, 218 people choked to death from food, half of them aged over 75. In the US in 2013, apparently 4,864 people died from choking, more than half over 75, but those numbers may include choking on non-food items. There seems a big disparity between those numbers.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

That's not too bad, most years it's a lot more! Maybe some people listened to the warnings this year.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Was predicted, warned about, and as predicted happened anyone. The predictability needs to be removed. As much as it is a fun tradition, both making and eating, mochi should be banned unless it is cut into small pieces. Difficult if not impossible to control, granted, so then anyone present when a person hospitalized or killed by eating an entire mochi should be charged, and at mochi-making events they should be required by law to cut all pieces into at least quarters before giving them to anyone. Sorry, I know it seems a bit extreme, but honestly it's sad to read about this and KNOWING with absolute certainty it's going to happen again. I know some people are saying, "Oh well... only two. Less than normal!", but that's still only so far, and still two too many.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

OK, it's time to mandate the Heimlich Manuever for all citizens.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The Japanese love mochi with all their heart and soul.

They just need to be a bit sensible about who eats it, because there are clearly some who are more vulnerable. For example, there are little ones around our table at the moment - kids under 3. They are given small pieces and told to 'Kami! Kami!'. Well, if that is the case and they have to be watched like a hawk as they eat, I'd say there is a far case for them not eating it at all until they are older. Big red flag.

Same with the elderly. No matter how much they might plead for it, I'd be saying no.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I have seen mochi only in pictures, but I know the food is deadly. Not sure why. But will certainly plan to avoid the food as if it presents a danger like the Chicago streets after dark.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Japan needs to create a kawaii villain named Mocheman to strike fear in the hearts of moche eaters. Then the people wise up.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It is quite amazing that they don't teach the Heimlich maneuver here, especially since they use the German inventor's names for the X-ray and Stapler. I have used the children's procedure on both of my kids for candy which doesn't take much force at all to pop something up. On an adult, I am not sure how much force is needed so I don't know if something sticky would come up, but judging how much pressure is created by pressing on the diaphragm, it just might pop too. Although in health class they also teach you to dig around with your fingers for anything stuck. Hitting on someone's back just makes anything go deeper into their throat, like banging a jar of coffee on the counter settles all the grounds to the bottom.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This happens every single year and yes if your loved one drops dead, even an in-law, that classifies as a Public Health disaster, you loving family you.

How about a compromise? Some game rules:

-- Portions no larger than your windpipe

-- A drink of water to clear your throat before eating

-- No laughing or speaking during eating

-- First Aid must be present before eating (vacuums?)

-- Heimlich (RIP 2016) trained mochi buddy present

-- 1 serving per half hour maximum to rest throat

Rules of death, Rules of life. Make it a catchy mascot. We need mascots! We need a panel!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I wonder if the Heimlich maneuver is powerful enough to get rid of such a sticky one.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


Hitting on someone's back just makes anything go deeper into their throat, like banging a jar of coffee on the counter settles all the grounds to the bottom.

Not really, the CPR courses of the Red Cross do recommend back blows because the mechanism for dislodging food from the airways is very different from settling a jar of coffee, if any object in the airways had enough freedom to be "settled" there would be no need for anything but the normal cough to bring that object out.

Still none of the 2 techniques are 100% effective and there will always be cases when people die, the numbers for this year are relatively low and I would not be surprised to find much more cases if you count asphyxiation by any other food source.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

That's not too bad, most years it's a lot more!

That's just for Tokyo....

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The police should arrest more mochi pushers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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