Monday, January 03, 2011

Mochi deaths 2011 (this year with video, and other “Japan is shrinking” news)

Happy New Year, everyone, and once again, condolences are due to those in Japan who just lost someone due to the annual New Year’s mochi eating habit.

Yes, as my Google search ranking for “mochi deaths” remains very high (number one in fact, something I acknowledge as a dubious distinction), I know that I have visitors waiting for this annual post.

But as with last year, it seems that the English Japanese news media have lost interest in providing the numbers of (usually elderly) Japanese residents who choke on their New Years mochi.

So again I have had to resort to searching in Japanese, this time with the ever helpful Google translate. It seems the numbers in the Tokyo area (see 3rd story at the linked page to Yomiuri Shimbun), at least, are pretty much as high as ever:

Between one or two days in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, and Wakayama prefectures of five, died choke on rice cakes from a total of 10 elderly people.

Tokyo Fire Department is "good hair cut is a small cake, for the elderly and children, accompanied by family members want," and has called for.

According to the agency, in Tokyo, the 24 people taken to the hospital by 8:00 pm two days, killing six of them. The 70 year-old woman died and five 95-year-old man 82. Five of them were at home eating rice cake.

In the other 4 provinces, 61 hours a day to choke on rice cakes 89-year-old male and female four people died.

So, the take home message from that seems to be: 10 dead, at least 24 taken to hospital. You can watch video of this deadly New Year's treat here at the link to Fuji TV. Fortunately, none of the participants keel over and die for the crew filming it.

There is another TV news story (see link to Japan TV NNN) about it, sadly showing an elderly person in a nursing home, by the looks, not being fed mochi. It is, I suppose, a hard story to illustrate well, but still I wish they had come up with something better than this.

Anyhow, my searching around hasn’t found any obvious links to the national mochi death toll this year, but if there were 10 dead around Tokyo, the total for the entire country must be considerably higher.

It’s no wonder that articles like this, warning of the danger, appear just before New Years. Incidentally, maybe this gives an indication of how many people die nationally from mochi, if I can trust Google Translate:

According to the Tokyo Fire Department, four years until 2009, the number of cases in food spending by 4719 the risk of suffocation. Of these, 444 of rice accounts for about 10 percent, are concentrated in the month of January to about 40% of the 171. The ratio becomes more severe 53%, and 70 years or older in most cases by a lot of food.

The Cabinet Office Food Safety Commission in June this year, the probability of risk of suffocation on food, and summarizes the results of the cake at highest risk. And is calculated by assuming 100 million people took a bite, the cake is to be up to 7.6 at the frequency of accidents….

According to the Ministry of Health, Vital Statistics, the number of deaths due to suffocation incidents of food in 2009 4679 people. Account for nearly 90 percent of those over 65.

So, if Tokyo Fire Department has about 4,719 deaths over four years from all choking, and the total national figure is about the same per year, maybe we can assume the national New Year's mochi death toll is about 3 to 4 times the Tokyo average? Well, someone with actual Japanese ability can correct me, but it seems a fair guess.

Onto more death in Japan news, the Japan Times notes the following:

A total of 4,863 people died from traffic accidents in 2010, down 51 from the previous year, according to preliminary data from the NPA.

So, roughly the same amount of Japanese die annually in car accidents as from choking? How does that compare to other countries? Well, it appears well above the American choking rate:

According to the National Safety Council, choking remained the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States as of 2004. In 2006, a total of 4,100 deaths (1.4 deaths per 100,000 population) from unintentional ingestion or inhalation of food or other objects resulting in airway obstruction was reported.

But the real point I was linking to the Japan Times article was due to the coverage on the shrinking Japanese population generally:

Death record reset KYODO An estimated 1,194,000 Japanese died last year, the most since record-keeping began in 1947, according to the latest health ministry data.

The data also said an estimated 1,071,000 babies were born 2010, up slightly from 2009.

The difference between births and deaths — 123,000 — also set a record high, blowing by the previous record of 71,830 set in 2009.

"The number of deaths is on the rise due to aging and the number of births will not grow because of a decline in the population of women who give birth," a Health, Labor and Welfare ministry official said.

The difference "will continue to be greater in the future," the official said.

In 2009, total deaths fell by 542 from 2008 to stand at 1,141,865. In 2010, however, total deaths surged by around 52,000 as elderly people succumbed to the hottest summer on record, the official said.

Japan's population decline has certainly taken a surge for the worse, by the sounds. (It's also interesting to note how many deaths they blame on the hot summer, even in a country where small houses and apartments make air conditioning easier and more economical than in countries like Australia.)

The Japan Times also recently ran an interesting opinion piece noting that Japan's fertility decline was by no means unique, being shared by other East Asian countries (Korea and Taiwan both, oddly enough) as well as strong welfare state countries such as in Scandinavia. This is true enough, but it still doesn't address the major issue of Japan being reluctant to take substantial immigration. It's not like they're going to be short of houses anytime soon.

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