The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

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    Historic Fortune Cookie Grills Donated to the Smithsonian

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | July 9, 2010

    Breaking news! Gary Ono, who is descended from one of the earliest fortune cookie manufacturers, is donating historic fortune cookie grills, known as kata, to the Smithsonian — thanks to a connection I made.

    Armed with the contact information I gave the museum, research specialist Noriko Sanefuji went out to investigate and met Gary, who is one of two people I have met that is as obsessed with fortune cookies as I am. (The other is Yasuko Nakamachi, the scholar who found the proof of fortune cookies existing in Japan)

    I’m super excited that this history is getting preserved. Gary’s grandfather, Suyeichi Okamura, an immigrant from Japan, is one of the claimants to the original fortune cookie in the U.S. He was a supplier of fortune cookies to Makoto Hagiwara, who ran the Japanese Tea Garden at the Golden Gate Park, and one of the legendary figures tied up with fortune cookie lore.

    As I cover in my book, Gary discovered the kata while digging through family history in the garage. Although some of the katas were plain, others had engraved initials (M.H. for Makoto Hagiwara) or had logos for the Tea Garden (Mount Fuji with “Japan Tea”).

    Gary is donating three katas to the Smithsonian. I know in a way, it’s a dream for him. His family history is being preserved as an official part of American history.

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