Anyway, that's not the point of this story. The point is more like this: you always thought fortune cookies were Chinese didn't you? Well, here's an article in the NY Times that indicates they originated in Japan! Of course, it's a Japanese woman, Yasuko Nakamachi, who's making the claim. But she does seem to have researched it pretty well.
So there you have it. I'm sure the Chinese are not happy to hear that dessert is the weakest part of the menu. Come on! Let's all go have some fruit cocktail tofu thing! (Actually, I like that fruit cocktail tofu thing...) And now, the Japanese are claiming their biggest and best-known cultural artifact that is so completely Murrican it's almost as Murrican as cheeseburgers. Go figure. Is nothing sacred?
Her prime pieces of evidence are the centuries-old small family bakeries making obscure fortune cookie-shaped crackers by hand near a temple outside Kyoto. She has also turned up many references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 etching of a man making them in a bakery - decades before the first reports of American fortune cookies.
The idea that fortune cookies come from Japan is counterintuitive, to say the least. "I am surprised," said Derrick Wong, the vice president of the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world, Wonton Food, based in Brooklyn. “People see it and think of it as a Chinese food dessert, not a Japanese food dessert,” he said. But, he conceded, “The weakest part of the Chinese menu is dessert.”
Ms. Nakamachi, a folklore and history graduate student at Kanagawa University outside Tokyo, has spent more than six years trying to establish the Japanese origin of the fortune cookie, much of that at National Diet Library (the Japanese equivalent of the Library of Congress). She has sifted through thousands of old documents and drawings. She has also traveled to temples and shrines across the country, conducting interviews to piece together the history of fortune-telling within Japanese desserts.
Meanwhile, nobody has taken up my suggestion of fortuneless cookies, as far as I know. But here's another idea. I'm currently looking for a Japanese partner, preferably a young woman named Yukiko Fortune, so we can start up our new business Miss Fortune Cookies. Which, in the zen dada way, will carry predictions of disaster. Something like: Your lucky lottery numbers are: 6 22 44 69 Miss Fortunately, someone else won with those numbers last week.