The Tokyo Fire Department urges people to use caution when consuming the sticky food.

There are many delicious things to eat on New Year’s in Japan–all of which must be prepared ahead of time, because cooking in the beginning of the New Year is bad luck–but mochi remains one of the most popular. The soft, chewy morsels made of rice pounded into a sticky paste is delicious, but dangerous.

The most hazardous way to eat mochi is in a soup called “ozoni“, which is part of the New Year’s Osechi cuisine. In that form, softened, slippery, and mixed together with other ingredients it can easily get stuck in the throat when not chewed properly. Tragically, that means that mochi has claimed the lives of many people throughout the years, and this year is no different.

In Tokyo alone, 15 people were rushed to the hospital while choking on mochi within the first two days of the New Year, according to the Tokyo Fire Department. All were between the ages of 68 and 96 years old, and of those 15, eight men and women were unconscious at the time of transportation.

One man in his eighties, who was eating ozoni for breakfast around 9:30 in the morning, got mochi stuck in his throat, experienced cardiac arrest while being transported, and sadly passed away at the hospital.

The Tokyo Fire department urges individuals to remember to use caution when eating mochi. To prevent choking, cut the mochi into small, manageable pieces, and chew it thoroughly before swallowing. Children and the elderly should be especially careful when consuming this risky food.

If faced with someone choking on mochi but still conscious, support their chest or chin as you lean them forward and hit their back to help them choke it up. If they lose consciousness, immediately perform CPR, but don’t forget to call an ambulance as soon as possible.

Although the New Year’s holidays are over, it pays to be careful, especially if you still have some New Year’s mochi or ozoni left to eat. Remember these tips to have a safe and happy new year, every year!

Source: NHK News Web via Otacom, Mainichi Shimbun, TBS News
Featured image: Pakutaso

Insert image: Pakutaso
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