Nine people have choked to death in Japan after eating a traditional rice cake, known as “mochi”.

The glutinous dish is a part of many people’s celebration of New Year.

According to local reports, 18 people were taken to hospital in Tokyo after suffocating on the snack. Three of those died, an official from the fire department said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said the death toll from rice cake accidents reached nine by Friday across Japan.

Another 13 people were in a serious condition.

The fire department is advising people – especially the very young and elderly – to cut mochi into small pieces before consuming.

Several people die each year in Japan after choking on rice cakes.

New Year is one of Japan’s biggest holidays.

Families traditionally celebrate by cooking a vegetable broth called “ozouni” and then putting the rice cakes into the soup.

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