I say this every January, but it isn’t truly the new year until the annual Tokyo Fire Department report comes out, which tells us how many people died from choking on mochi over the new year. This year the magic numbers are nineteen and four; as in nineteen hospitalizations and four deaths over the new year weekend in Tokyo.
Sadly, this is an annual occurrence in Japan and for many years there have been awareness campaigns to remind people to cut their new year’s mochi into small, bite-sized pieces. It doesn’t matter how far the message gets spread though, as someone, somewhere, is going to bite off more than they can chew and have a mochi-related accident. This year the youngest victim was 38 but these accidents can occur to people of just about any age, particularly the elderly, as proven this year as all four deaths were women in their 80s.
Unfortunately, these accidents were compounded by the fact that Tokyo hospitals are still dealing with the pandemic and may not have been able to get to these mochi-related accidents as quickly as usual.
Now, I love mochi as much as the next person, but please, for the love of the gods, do not ever let my death certificate read that I died from mochi. Make up any official cause of death that you want, but please do not let me be one of the few each year who chokes on the gooey goodness and has to meet their maker with a clogged up throat.
Regardless, remember to pour out some ramune or even some hot ramen broth for those who gave their lives for their love of rice cakes this year, and tune in again next January for the next episode of Attack of the Killer Mochi Balls.