The National Police Agency and Fire and Disaster Management Agency said Thursday that four people had died after choking on “mochi” rice cakes.
Furthermore, 10 people in Tokyo were hospitalized on Wednesday after choking on “mochi.” Of the 10, nine were over 65, and two remain in a coma.
TV Asahi reported that the fatalities were a man in his 70s in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, a man in his 80s in Minami-Soma, Fukushima, an 85-year-old man in Shimotsuke, Tochigi Prefecture, and an 85-year-old woman in Nasushiobara, Tochigi Prefecture.
The agency said it is still collating figures for the whole of Japan.
On Monday, authorities had issued an appeal to elderly people to be careful when eating “mochi” during the New Year holidays.
The cakes, a traditional New Year’s food, cause choking incidents among elderly people every year. Authorities appealed to people across Japan to cut up their “mochi” into small chunks and to eat it with great care, and in the presence of someone else.