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Six choke to death on New Year rice cakes

TOKYO (AFP) ― Six people choked to death and five others were in a serious condition after eating traditional glutinous “mochi” rice cakes to celebrate the New Year in Tokyo, fire department officials said Monday.

The victims, in their 70s or older, died of suffocation over the weekend after eating the New Year delicacy, the fire department said.

During the New Year period, one of Japan’s biggest holidays, families traditionally cook “ozouni” soup and put the sticky rice cakes in the vegetable broth.

“Please be aware that mochi, which is so sticky, may cause suffocation if you swallow mochi without chewing it well,” the fire department said in a statement.

The fire department is advising people, especially the elderly and infants, to cut mochi into small pieces before eating it.

Every year, several Japanese, mostly older people or infants, die after choking on rice cakes.