Death by Mochi

By: Yulia Nakagome

In Japan, a typical New Year’s Day starts out with a breakfast of traditional foods called osechi. One of these is o-zōni. The preparation of this soup dish varies by region, but the featured ingredient is mochi rice cake. Made out of pounded steamed rice, mochi is fairly sticky, and, if not chewed properly, can get stuck in the throat and lead to suffocation. This feature makes it particularly difficult to consume for young children and the elderly. According to BBC News, 90 percent of those who are hospitalized from choking on mochi are aged 65 and older. Choking on mochi can even lead to death, a fact that my father does not fail to mention at the breakfast table every year on New Year’s morning. For obvious reasons, this is not something that I really want to hear as a piece of mochi makes its way down my throat. This New Year’s, 13 people were hospitalized and of those people, two died. Though incredibly tasty and something that I would recommend trying, especially in o-zōni or with soy sauce or red bean paste, mochi should be consumed with caution. Choking on a piece is certainly not the most auspicious way to bring in the new year.

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