Artbound

Artbound

Start watching
Baptiste

Baptiste

Start watching
Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

Start watching
Grantchester

Grantchester

Start watching
Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

Start watching
The Latino Experience

The Latino Experience

Start watching
Professor T

Professor T (UK)

Start watching
Emma

Emma

Start watching
Guilt

Guilt

Start watching
Unforgotten

Unforgotten

Start watching
In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words

Start watching
Us

Us

Start watching
PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour

Start watching
Halifax: Retribution

Halifax: Retribution

Start watching
Midsomer Murders

Midsomer Murders

Start watching
X5ZQAor-show-poster2x3-OqYWNwS.jpg

Atlantic Crossing

Start watching
gc2Zpzc-show-poster2x3-le96lbT.jpg

Life at the Waterhole

Start watching
NOVA

NOVA

Start watching
Finding Your Roots

Finding Your Roots

Start watching
Antiques Roadshow

Antiques Roadshow

Start watching
Membership Card
Support PBS SoCal by becoming a member today.
Other Ways to Give Card
Learn about the many ways to support PBS SoCal.
Connect with Our Team Card
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

On Los Angeles's role in putting the Fortune Cookie on the American map

Support Provided By

By Maura Wall Hernandez

Mary Berry’s Florentine biscuits, a recipe she developed in the 1990s, has become a beloved staple of British dessert offerings. Creating such cornerstones of a cuisine takes a lot of effort and a bit of magic—Southern California is no stranger to the creation and dissemination of recipes that become mainstays in American culture.

Legend has it that the fortune cookie was born at a bakery in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, where a Japanese immigrant claims to have first placed a “fortune slip,” or omikuji, inside a sweet dough cookie and sold it to Chinese restaurants throughout the city.

But unlike Ms. Berry’s recipe, there’s much debate on who the real inventor truly was. Of course the Chinese claim it as theirs, but our neighbors in the Bay Area say it was invented there.

Historians agree that it’s most likely that the dough recipe, baking method, the inserted paper slip with a cryptic message, and the cookie shape itself all have their origin in Kyoto, Japan.

Families of Japanese and Chinese immigrants to California claim to have either invented or first marketed the cookies between 1907 and 1914.

Such is the case of Fugetsu-Do, a bakery that opened in LA’s Little Tokyo in 1903 by Seiichi Kito and that still produces traditional Japanese sweets today. Kito claimed that it was his idea to place the fortune inside the cookies and sold them to restaurants—which appreciated the tradition—and thought their customers would enjoy the unique cultural touch.

Today, Fugetsu-Do no longer makes fortune cookies, but the historic bakery still operates in Little Tokyo. The bakery’s extraordinary variety of mochi treats is what keeps it on the map, along with a selection of other Japanese desserts. (See photos below.)

Other purveyors dispute Kito’s claim of elevating the fortune cookie to national recognition. Yasuo Hamano opened Umeya Co. in downtown LA in 1921 and began selling his fortune cookies in 1924. Before World War II, Umeya sold them to about 150 Japanese-owned Chinese restaurants throughout Southern California. Nowadays, Umeya still manufactures in Los Angeles and distributes nationwide and globally to places such as Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, Guam, Australia, and South America.

Umeya stopped sales during WWII, but soldiers returning from abroad, and those who had been stationed in SoCal, asked for them at their local Chinese restaurants, creating an immense market throughout the country. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Fugetsu-Do Exterior
1/6
Fugetsu-Do Mochi
2/6
Fugetsu-Do - Matcha
3/6
Fugetsu-Do
4/6
Fugetsu-Do
5/6
Fugetsu-Do
6/6

Support Provided By
Read More
How To: Eat your way through #HispanicHeritageMonth in SoCal

How To: Eat your way through #HispanicHeritageMonth in SoCal

By Natalia CarterFinding authentic Hispanic food places in Los Angeles is not a difficult task. Thanks to the large number of immigrants from Latin…
5 tiled images of snack foods and center tile with text “PBS SoCal Game Day Snack Recipes”

Last-minute recipe ideas for your eating-while-game-watching enjoyment!

What’s the best thing about watching Sunday's big game? If your favorite team's not playing, it’s certainly not the football! In that case, the best thing…