How to say freeze in Japanese
For many Japanese, the New Year doesn't really start until they've eaten mochi. Mochi? Yes, mochi. These are rice cakes that for many Japanese people simply belong to the New Year. What traditionally belongs to the consumption of mochi is the danger to life and limb. Especially when it comes to older mochi eaters.
Ambulances brought eleven Japanese people to the hospital on New Year's Day for mochi food, and one was killed. It is quite possible that he will not be the only one. There were two mochi deaths last year. The Japanese start the year slowly, with New Year being their highest holiday. Most people don't have to go back to work until next week, except in the big cities the shops stay closed for days.
Plenty of time to eat mochi.
Mochi are made from steamed glutinous rice. Traditionally, the rice mass is pounded in large wooden mortars with even larger wooden pestles. This sometimes happens in public at Shinto shrines at New Year's and at public festivals throughout the year.
Everyone is allowed to hit a couple of times, and after each hit the lump is turned over. Because good mochi need at least 300 hard hits. One says. When the mochi lump has become a homogeneous dough, it is cut into pieces the size of a plum and shaped into balls. These are the mochi.
The Japanese eat mochi all year round. Even if mochi has long been available in the supermarket: Many people prepare the tough, sticky mass in all possible ways, savory with soy sauce, roasted and sweetened, mixed with green tea, stuffed with sweetened bean paste or sesame.
There are even mochi filled with vanilla ice cream. For the New Year, however, it has to be pure mochi in zoni, a special soup. And you eat as many as possible. For older Japanese, this is where the problem begins.
Macabre media ritual
Of the eleven people who came to the hospital on January 1 as mochi emergencies, seven were over sixty years old, said the Tokyo Fire Department - they are also responsible for the ambulances. The deceased was over 80.
Typically, old people choke on mochi because the mass gets stuck in their throats. You can't get it out, but you can't swallow it either.
It is one of the regular rituals of the Japanese media to report with almost macabre glee on January 2nd how many mochi emergencies there were again on New Years Day. And how many dead.
Rescue with the vacuum cleaner
Between 2006 and 2009, an average of six people died of mochi each year. The press also likes to mention the woman who at New Year 2001 vacuumed a stuck mochi from her old father's throat. And so saved his life.
The mochi statistics, which are also available and published by the fire department, say that there are an average of seven mochi emergencies in August, and 221 in January.
But don't panic: the number of mochi deaths is falling. The leaflets distributed by the fire brigade may have contributed to this. On the handouts, she admonishes people to cut mochi into small pieces. She also gives tips on how to give first aid if a mochi gets stuck in someone's throat. Even without a vacuum cleaner.
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