Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south; the kanji that make up Japan's name mean "sun origin", it is called the "Land of the Rising Sun". Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago consisting of about 6,852 islands; the four largest are Honshu, Hokkaido and Shikoku, which make up about ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area and are referred to as home islands. The country is divided into 47 prefectures in eight regions, with Hokkaido being the northernmost prefecture and Okinawa being the southernmost one; the population of 127 million is the world's tenth largest. 90.7 % of people live in cities. About 13.8 million people live in the capital of Japan. The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populous metropolitan area in the world with over 38 million people. Archaeological research indicates; the first written mention of Japan is in Chinese history texts from the 1st century AD.
Influence from other regions China, followed by periods of isolation from Western Europe, has characterized Japan's history. From the 12th century until 1868, Japan was ruled by successive feudal military shōguns who ruled in the name of the Emperor. Japan entered into a long period of isolation in the early 17th century, ended in 1853 when a United States fleet pressured Japan to open to the West. After nearly two decades of internal conflict and insurrection, the Imperial Court regained its political power in 1868 through the help of several clans from Chōshū and Satsuma – and the Empire of Japan was established. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, victories in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War and World War I allowed Japan to expand its empire during a period of increasing militarism; the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 expanded into part of World War II in 1941, which came to an end in 1945 following the Japanese surrender. Since adopting its revised constitution on May 3, 1947, during the occupation led by SCAP, the sovereign state of Japan has maintained a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with an Emperor and an elected legislature called the National Diet.
Japan is a member of the ASEAN Plus mechanism, UN, the OECD, the G7, the G8, the G20, is considered a great power. Its economy is the world's third-largest by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity, it is the world's fourth-largest exporter and fourth-largest importer. Japan benefits from a skilled and educated workforce. Although it has renounced its right to declare war, Japan maintains a modern military with the world's eighth-largest military budget, used for self-defense and peacekeeping roles. Japan is a developed country with a high standard of living and Human Development Index, its population enjoys the highest life expectancy and third lowest infant mortality rate in the world, but is experiencing issues due to an aging population and low birthrate. Japan is renowned for its historical and extensive cinema, influential music industry, video gaming, rich cuisine and its major contributions to science and modern technology; the Japanese word for Japan is 日本, pronounced Nihon or Nippon and means "the origin of the sun".
The character nichi means "sun" or "day". The compound therefore means "origin of the sun" and is the source of the popular Western epithet "Land of the Rising Sun"; the earliest record of the name Nihon appears in the Chinese historical records of the Tang dynasty, the Old Book of Tang. At the end of the seventh century, a delegation from Japan requested that Nihon be used as the name of their country; this name may have its origin in a letter sent in 607 and recorded in the official history of the Sui dynasty. Prince Shōtoku, the Regent of Japan, sent a mission to China with a letter in which he called himself "the Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises"; the message said: "Here, I, the emperor of the country where the sun rises, send a letter to the emperor of the country where the sun sets. How are you". Prior to the adoption of Nihon, other terms such as Yamato and Wakoku were used; the term Wa is a homophone of Wo 倭, used by the Chinese as a designation for the Japanese as early as the third century Three Kingdoms period.
Another form of Wa, Wei in Chinese) was used for an early state in Japan called Nakoku during the Han dynasty. However, the Japanese disliked some connotation of Wa 倭, it was therefore replaced with the substitute character Wa, meaning "togetherness, harmony"; the English word Japan derives from the historical Chinese pronunciation of 日本. The Old Mandarin or early Wu Chinese pronunciation of Japan was recorded by Marco Polo as Cipangu. In modern Shanghainese, a Wu dialect, the pronunciation of characters 日本; the old Malay word for Japan, Japun or Japang, was borrowed from a southern coastal Chinese dialect Fukienese or Ningpo – and this Malay word was encountered by Portuguese traders in Southeast Asia in the 16th century. These Early Portuguese traders brought the word
Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture located in the Kansai region of Japan. The city occupies the northern part of Nara Prefecture. Eight temples and ruins in Nara remain: Tōdai-ji, Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji, the Heijō Palace, together with Kasugayama Primeval Forest, collectively form "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara", a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During 710 CE - 784 CE, Nara was the capital of Japan, the Emperor lived there before moving the capital to Kyoto. By the Heian period, a variety of different characters had been used to represent the name Nara: 乃楽, 乃羅, 平, 平城, 名良, 奈良, 奈羅, 常, 那良, 那楽, 那羅, 楢, 諾良, 諾楽, 寧, 寧楽 and 儺羅. A number of theories for the origin of the name Nara have been proposed, some of the better-known ones are listed here; the second theory in the list, by notable folklorist Kunio Yanagita, is most accepted at present. The Nihon Shoki suggests. According to this account, in September in the tenth year of Emperor Sujin, "leading selected soldiers went forward, climbed Nara-yama and put them in order.
Now the imperial forces flattened trees and plants. Therefore the mountain is called Nara-yama." Though the narrative itself is regarded as a folk etymology and few researchers regard it as historical, this is the oldest surviving suggestion, is linguistically similar to the following theory by Yanagita. "Flat land" theory: In his 1936 study of placenames, the author Kunio Yanagita states that "the topographical feature of an area of gentle gradient on the side of a mountain, called taira in eastern Japan and hae in the south of Kyushu, is called naru in the Chūgoku region and Shikoku. This word gives rise to the verb narasu, adverb narashi, adjective narushi." This is supported by entries in a dialect dictionary for nouns referring to flat areas: naru and naro. Yanagita further comments that the way in which the fact that so many of these placenames are written using the character 平, or other characters in which it is an element, demonstrates the validity of this theory. Citing a 1795 document, Inaba-shi from the province of Inaba, the eastern part of modern Tottori, as indicating the reading naruji for the word 平地, Yanagita suggests that naruji would have been used as a common noun there until the modern period.
Of course, the fact that "Nara" was written 平 or 平城 as above is further support for this theory. The idea that Nara is derived from 楢 nara is the next most common opinion; this idea was suggested by Yoshida Togo. This noun for the plant can be seen as early as in Man ` Harima-no-kuni Fudoki; the latter book states the place name Narahara in Harima derives from this nara tree, which might support Yoshida's theory. Note that the name of the nearby city of Kashihara contains a semantically similar morpheme. Nara could be a loan word from Korean nara; this idea was put forward by a linguist Matsuoka Shizuo. Not much about the Old Korean language is known today, the first written attestation of a word ancestral to Modern Korean nara is as late as the 15th century, such as in Yongbieocheonga, Wolinseokbo, or Beophwagyeongeonhae, there is no evidence that proves the word existed as far back as the 7th century; these 15th-century books used narah, an old form of nara in Korean, its older form might be reconstructed *narak.
American linguist Christopher I. Beckwith infers the Korean narak derives from the late Middle Old Chinese 壌, from early *narak, has no connection with Goguryoic and Japanese na. Kusuhara et al. points out this hypothesis cannot account for the fact there are lots of places named Nara and Naro besides this Nara. There is the idea. In some Tungusic languages such as Orok, na means land or the like; some have speculated about a connection between these Tungusic words and Old Japanese nawi, an archaic and somewhat obscure word that appears in the verb phrases nawi furu and nawi yoru. The "Flat land" theory is adopted by Nihon Kokugo Daijiten, various dictionaries for place names, history books on Nara and the like today, it is regarded as the most likely. By decree of an edict on March 11, 708 AD, Empress Genmei ordered the court to relocate to the new capital, Nara. Once known as Heijō or Heijō-kyō, the city was established as Japan’s first permanent capital in 710 CE. Heijō, as the ‘penultimate court’, was abandoned by the order of Emperor Kammu in 784 CE in favor of the temporary site of Nagaoka, Kyoto which retained the status of capital for 1,100 years, until the Meiji Emperor made the final move to Edo
Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions and spiritual practices based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are recognized by scholars: Theravada and Mahayana. Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, their specific teachings and practices. Observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism and the cultivation of the Paramitas.
Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Nichiren Buddhism and Tiantai, is found throughout East Asia. Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region and Kalmykia. Buddhism is an Indian religion attributed to the teachings of the Buddha born Siddhārtha Gautama, known as the Tathāgata and Sakyamuni. Early texts have his personal name as "Gautama" or "Gotama" without any mention of "Siddhārtha," which appears to have been a kind of honorific title when it does appear; the details of Buddha's life are mentioned in many Early Buddhist Texts but are inconsistent, his social background and life details are difficult to prove, the precise dates uncertain. The evidence of the early texts suggests that he was born as Siddhārtha Gautama in Lumbini and grew up in Kapilavasthu, a town in the plains region of the modern Nepal-India border, that he spent his life in what is now modern Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Some hagiographic legends state that his father was a king named Suddhodana, his mother was Queen Maya, he was born in Lumbini gardens. However, scholars such as Richard Gombrich consider this a dubious claim because a combination of evidence suggests he was born in the Shakyas community – one that gave him the title Shakyamuni, the Shakya community was governed by a small oligarchy or republic-like council where there were no ranks but where seniority mattered instead; some of the stories about Buddha, his life, his teachings, claims about the society he grew up in may have been invented and interpolated at a time into the Buddhist texts. According to the Buddhist sutras, Gautama was moved by the innate suffering of humanity and its endless repetition due to rebirth, he set out on a quest to end this repeated suffering. Early Buddhist canonical texts and early biographies of Gautama state that Gautama first studied under Vedic teachers, namely Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, learning meditation and ancient philosophies the concept of "nothingness, emptiness" from the former, "what is neither seen nor unseen" from the latter.
Finding these teachings to be insufficient to attain his goal, he turned to the practice of asceticism. This too fell short of attaining his goal, he turned to the practice of dhyana, which he had discovered in his youth, he famously sat in meditation under a Ficus religiosa tree now called the Bodhi Tree in the town of Bodh Gaya in the Gangetic plains region of South Asia. He gained insight into the workings of karma and his former lives, attained enlightenment, certainty about the Middle Way as the right path of spiritual practice to end suffering from rebirths in Saṃsāra; as a enlightened Buddha, he attracted followers and founded a Sangha. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the Dharma he had discovered, died at the age of 80 in Kushinagar, India. Buddha's teachings were propagated by his followers, which in the last centuries of the 1st millennium BCE became over 18 Buddhist sub-schools of thought, each with its own basket of texts containing different interpretations and authentic teachings of the Buddha.
The Four Truths express the basic orientation of Buddhism: we crave and cling to impermanent states and things, dukkha, "incapable of satisfying" and painful. This keeps us caught in saṃsāra, the endless cycle of repeated rebirth and dying again, but there is a way to liberation from this endless cycle to the state of nirvana, namely following the Noble Eightfold Path. The truth of dukkha is the basic insight that life in this mundane world, with its clinging and craving to impermanent states and things is dukkha, unsatisfactory. Dukkha can be translated as "incapable of satisfying," "the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena". Dukkha is most translated as "suffering," but this is inaccurate, since it refers not to episodic suffering, but to the intrinsically unsat
Ema are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes. The ema are left hanging up at the shrine. 15 cm wide and 9 cm high, they carry images or are shaped like animals, or symbols from the zodiac, Shinto, or the particular shrine or temple. In ancient times people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor. Once inscribed with a wish, Ema are hung at the shrine until they are ritually burned at special events, symbolic of the liberation of the wish from the writer. In some early Shinto and folk traditions of Japan, horses were seen to carry messages from the kami, used to transmit requests during droughts or famines. Horses were expensive, figures made of clay or wood have been found dating to the Nara period; the earliest text record of a substitution is from the Honcho bunsui from 1013, in which an offering of three paper horses is made at the Kitano Tenjin shrine. During the Kamakura period, the practice entered into Buddhist practice, as evidenced in painted scrolls of ema at Buddhist temples.
The depictions of objects aside from horses can be traced to either the Muromachi or Tokugawa periods, beginning with larger sized ema but representing new forms, such as ships. Artists of this period, such as Hokusai, began to create ema in distinct styles, creating the objects became a professionalized craft. Today, they are produced at or by the shrine or temple in which they are found; some shrines have faced criticism for profiting from the sale of ema. In 1979, two shrines dedicated to education sold ema for examination success, transforming the funds into a scholarship in 1980 after public outcry. Groups of farmers or small merchants could organize to hire a local artisan to create an ema to be donated to a shrine for a specific purpose, such as a good harvest. Archeological records suggest this could have been used to send political signals, as in the case of A Fukuoka Prefecture shrine that saw an increase in commissioned portraits depicting peaceful relations with Korea amidst tensions between the nations during the late 19th century.
Ema can represent deities, such as Kannon and Jizu, but more specific iconography depending on their intended purpose. These include depictions of a phallus or breasts for fertility prayers, or an octopus representing the desire to be cured of warts. Another example are sandals depicted on plaques for foot remedies. Another form of ema wish for "tie-cutting." Whereas a man and woman standing beside a palm tree is interpreted as a wish for a long relationship, another plaque depicts nettles between the couple, wishing for divorce. Common symbolism includes nettles placed beside an object one wishes to sever ties with. During wartime, ema depicting the same man, one in military uniform and one in civilian clothing, suggested a desire for a soldier to sever from his civilian life. For some, the same image may have been used to express a wish to avoid military service altogether; the use of text has replaced the overt use of symbolism in contemporary ema. The rise of literacy has encouraged guests to write their own messages, which has decreased the use of distinct ema as a way to transmit a specific wish.
As a ritual, the ema is a means to communicate wishes to the kami. The public nature of the ema, which are displayed at shrines before their ritual burning serves a social function for communicating to the community that an individual has made the wish. Burning the wishes helps to "symbolically liberate" the spirit of the wish into the world. In some cases, wishes are taken from the shrine to be hung at home, though still ritually burned in special ceremonies; the Glossary of Shinto for an explanation of terms concerning Japanese Shinto, Shinto art, Shinto shrine architecture. Sangaku
Kasuga Grand Shrine is a Shinto shrine in the city of Nara, in Nara Prefecture, Japan. This shrine was established in the same time the previous capital of Nara was founded. Surrounded by the sacred Mount Mikasa, Kasuga hills, the land that it was built upon is said to have been holy ground before the shrine's establishment; the shrine was constructed by the Fujiwara family who ruled during the Heian period and has since been rebuilt several times over the centuries every 20 years in the process of shikinen sengu. Both Kasuga-taisha and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest that it protects are registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara"; the path to Kasuga Shrine passes through Nara Park nearby Man'yo Botanical Garden. This park is home to free roaming deer that are venerated as sacred messengers of the Shinto deities in and around the shrine and mountainous terrain. Kasuga Grand Shrine and the hundreds of deer have been featured in several paintings and works of art of the Nambokucho Period known as Kasuga Mandalas.
The birth of this shrine, according to legend, began when the first kami of Kasuga-taisha, rode on the back of a white deer to the top of Mount Mikasa in 768 CE. This kami is said to have traveled from the Kashima Jingu Shrine; the shrine location first received favor from the Imperial government in the Heian period as a result of the power from the Fujiwara family as well as Empress Shotoku. From 1871 through 1946, Kasuga Shrine was designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines; the four main kami enshrined here are Ame no koyane, Futsunushi no mikoto, Takemikazuchi no mikoto. Though these are the primary divine beings of Kasuga taisha, they are grouped together as a syncretic, combined deity known as Kasuga Daimyōjin, or the "great bright kami of Kasuga." This amalgam lead to the creation of the "Cult of the Kasuga" in which devotees could worship multiple kami at once. Kasuga Daimyōjin is composed of five divine beings and each consists of a Buddhist deity and Shinto kami counterpart.
The fifth deity, Ame no oshikumone, was added much and is said to be the divine child of Ame no koyane and Himegami. The importance of the multifaceted kami was that it became a template for future worshipers who wanted to combine several deities to pray to at once; the architectural style of Kasuga-taisha comes from the name of it's main hall known as Kasuga-zukuri. This style consists of red tones that are reminiscent of Chinese architecture; the shrine complex is protected by four cloisters and contains a main sanctuary, treasure house, several different halls, large gates. One beautiful aspect of this shrine is the many wisteria trees known as "Sunazuri-no-Fuji" that bloom in late April and early May; this shrine is home to over 3,000 lanterns which are made of either stone or bronze. An entire hall is devoted to them, Fujinami-no-ya Hall but the lanterns are only lit during the Setsubun Mantoro and Chugen Mantoro festivals; the four main kami each have a shrine devoted to them. They are characterized by sloping gabled roofs, a rectangular structure and chigi.
The first hall established is dedicated to Takemikazuchi no mikoto, the second to Futsunushi no mikoto, the third to Amenokoyane no mikoto, the final hall is attributed to the consort, Himegami. Several auxillary shrines lie outside the main sanctuary. One is alloted to Tsunofuri no kami, known as Tsubakimoto Jinja Shrine or Kayabusa Myojin. Kasenomiya Jinja Shrine is atttributed to Shinatsuhiko no mikoto and Shinatsuhime who are kami of the winds. Wakamiya Jinja Shrine, created in 1135 CE, is one of the more prominent auxillary shrines because it houses the kogami, or offspring kami called Ame no Oshikumono no mikoto; the primary worship here revolves around vengeful gods and the dead and is the location of the Kasuga Wakamiya festival. The Treasure House at this shrine contains hundreds national treasures as well as about many other cultural properties, most of which are from the Heian period; some of the most noteworthy items that reside here are ornate taiko drums used in gagaku from the Kamakura period, arrows with crystal whistles from the Heian period, bronze mirrors of the Heian and Nanboku-cho periods.
During the festivals of Setsubun Mantoro and Chugen Mantoro, three thousand shrine lanterns are all lit at once. The Setsubun Mantoro refers to the celebration of the seasonal shift from winter to spring while the Chugen Mantoro relates to the transition of summer to fall, they both takes place in order to celebrate the Setsubun holidays in Japanese culture. At Kasuga Grand shrine, people are seen writing and attaching their wishes, or ema, to the lanterns before lighting them during both festivals. Additionally, it is said that tossing dried beans at these times will ward off bad luck in the future. March 13 is a local festival which features the dances of gagaku and bugaku. Shinto women perform traditional Japanese Yamato-mai dances that date back to the Heian and Nara periods; this festival holds a horse celebration which consists of a parade through the streets by a "sacred" horse. One will see people dressed in traditional costumes of the Heian to Edo periods and can experience authentic kagura dance displays with dengaku music.
The Kasuga Wakamiya Festival takes place at the Wakamiya Jinja shrine from December 15 to 18th each year. The main goal of this gathering was to ward off disease while promoting new growth for the spr
Kau Chim, Kau Cim or Lottery poetry is a fortune telling practice that originated in China in which the querent requests answers from a sacred oracle lot. The practice is performed in a Taoist or Buddhist temple in front of an altar. Kau Chim is referred to as Chien Tung or Chinese Fortune Sticks by westerners. In the US, a version has been sold since 1915 under the name Chi Chi Sticks. Kau Chim is sometimes known as "The Oracle of Kuan Yin" in Buddhist traditions, it is available in Thai temples, known as Siam Si. The similar practice is found in Japan, named O-mikuji. Chim bucket: A long cylindrical bamboo cup or tube. Kau Chim sticks: The flat sticks. Made of bamboo, they resemble wide, flat incense sticks, are painted red at one end. A single number, both in Arabic numerals and in Chinese characters, is inscribed on each stick; each stick has a different number on it, no two are alike. There are a total of 100 sticks in the cup, although the Chi Chi Sticks variation sold in the US for fortune telling has only 78 sticks.
100 written oracle outcomes. A German, Werner Banck, has classified the contents of 420 sets into 24 categories and 160 sub-categories; the practice of kau chim interpreting dates back to the Jin Dynasty, according to the Jade Box Records, an ancient Chinese book on date selection, written by the famous Daoist monk Xu Xun in the 3rd century AD. Despite the Cultural Revolution in mainland China during the 1960s and 1970s, lottery poetry still prevails today in temples of Taiwan, Hong-Kong and mainland China. Most Taoism temples have lottery poetry to provide religious guidance for the believers; the prediction begins with the cup storing a number of the sticks. After the querent has finished their devotions to the main deity, the querent purifies the cylinder by revolving it around the incense burner three times and mixing the sticks by hand; the querent kneels in prayer, holding the cup between their palms and asking their question to the deity, either aloud or by whispering. This part needs to be done decisively as one should not shift questions or hesitate on the question in the middle of the rite.
The shaking of the cylinder, tipped downward, results in at least one stick leaving the cylinder and being dropped onto the floor. In most cases, if multiple sticks leave the cylinder, those fortunes do not count and must be shaken again; each stick, with its designated number, represents one answer. When a single stick falls out, the number will correspond to one of the hundred written oracles with an answer on it; the writing on the piece of paper will provide an answer to the question. In most cases, to confirm the validity of the answer given by the deity, the querent will pick up and toss two jiaobei blocks; each block flat on the other. A successful answer requires one flat and one round side to be facing up, a failed answer will result in two round sides facing up. Much emphasis is placed on denial; the querent will have the option to ask for a fortune. Following a successful fortune, interpretation may be needed to comprehend the answer. Answers can be interpreted by a temple priest or volunteers or can be self-interpreted by the querent.
In many cases, an offering is made prior to the asking of the question in order to carry good favor from the higher powers. These offerings consist of incense, fresh fruits, cakes, or monetary donations. At places such as the Thean Hou Temple the handheld bucket is replaced with a larger container. On the inside at the bottom of the container are protrusions. To consult the oracle, the querent holds the sticks in a vertical bundle, raises them a little inside the bucket and drops them while holding them loosely. Any stick that stands proud of the rest is considered part of the divined answer; the stick result is analyzed by an interpreter, who has a book of Chinese poetic phrases and stories. The interpretation is short ranged covering no more than one year, using Chinese New Year as the starting point; the interpreter charges a small fee. Interpreters provide other services such as palm or face reading; because the accuracy of the prediction much depends on the interpreter, some people run the result through a number of different interpreters to see whether similar results are drawn.
The interpreted answer is a historical Chinese story re-told in modern sense. The story is the forthcoming event the querent is about to experience. In some traditions, the believer draws one lottery and looks for the corresponding poem to the lottery; the poems are written or printed on a piece of paper 12–15 cm long and 4 cm wide, with a Jueju poem on each piece as the answer to the believer from the gods. In Hong Kong, by and large the most popular place for this fortune telling practice is the Wong Tai Sin Temple which draws thousands to millions of people each year. In 1915, kau chim sticks were introduced to the United States under the trade name "Chi Chi Chinese Fortune Teller" by the Pacific Dry Goods Company of San Francisco, where a large population of Chinese immigrants had settled; the Chi Chi sticks, 78 in number, were made in China of bamboo but they were marked with Arabic
A fortune cookie is a crisp and sugary cookie made from flour, sugar and sesame seed oil with a piece of paper inside, a "fortune", on, an aphorism, or a vague prophecy. The message inside may include a Chinese phrase with translation and/or a list of lucky numbers used by some as lottery numbers. Fortune cookies are served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States and other Western countries, but are not a tradition in China; the exact origin of fortune cookies is unclear, though various immigrant groups in California claim to have popularized them in the early 20th century. They most originated from cookies made by Japanese immigrants to the United States in the late 19th or early 20th century; the Japanese version was eaten with tea. As far back as the 19th century, a cookie similar in appearance to the modern fortune cookie was made in Kyoto, Japan; the Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger. They contain a fortune; this kind of cookie is called tsujiura senbei and is still sold in some regions of Japan in Kanazawa, Ishikawa.
It is sold in the neighborhood of Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine in Kyoto. Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is reported to have been the first person in the U. S. to have served the modern version of the cookie when he did so at the tea garden in the 1890s or early 1900s. The fortune cookies were made by Benkyodo. David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles, has made a competing claim that he invented the cookie in 1918. San Francisco's Court of Historical Review attempted to settle the dispute in 1983. During the proceedings, a fortune cookie was introduced as a key piece of evidence with a message reading, "S. F. Judge who rules for L. A. Not Very Smart Cookie". A federal judge of the Court of Historical Review determined that the cookie originated with Hagiwara and the court ruled in favor of San Francisco. Subsequently, the city of Los Angeles condemned the decision. Seiichi Kito, the founder of Fugetsu-do of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles claims to have invented the cookie.
Kito claims to have gotten the idea of putting a message in a cookie from Omikuji which are sold at temples and shrines in Japan. According to his story, he sold his cookies to Chinese restaurants where they were greeted with much enthusiasm in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, thus Kito's main claim is that he is responsible for the cookie being so associated with Chinese restaurants. Up to around World War II, fortune cookies were known as "fortune tea cakes"—likely reflecting their origins in Japanese tea cakes. Fortune cookies moved from being a confection dominated by Japanese-Americans to one dominated by Chinese-Americans sometime around World War II. One theory for why this occurred is because of the Japanese American internment during World War II, which forcibly put over 100,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps, including those who had produced fortune cookies; this gave an opportunity for Chinese manufacturers. Fortune cookies before the early 20th century were all made by hand.
However, the fortune cookie industry changed after the fortune cookie machine was invented by Shuck Yee from Oakland, California. The machine allowed for mass production of fortune cookies which subsequently allowed the cookies to drop in price to become the novelty and courtesy dessert many Americans are familiar with after their meals at most Chinese restaurants today. Rumors that fortune cookies were invented in China are seen as false. In 1989, fortune cookies were imported into Hong Kong and sold as "genuine American fortune cookies". Wonton Food attempted to expand its fortune cookie business into China in 1992, but gave up after fortune cookies were considered "too American". There are 3 billion fortune cookies made each year around the world, the vast majority of them used for consumption in the United States; the largest manufacturer of the cookies is Wonton Food Inc. headquartered in New York. They make over 4.5 million fortune cookies per day. Another large manufacturer are Baily International in the Midwest and Peking Noodle in the Los Angeles area.
There are other smaller, local manufacturers including Tsue Chong Co. in Seattle, Keefer Court Food in Minneapolis and Sunrise Fortune Cookie in Philadelphia. Many smaller companies will sell custom fortunes. Authorities investigated Wonton Food Inc. in 2005, after 110 Powerball lottery players won about $19 million after using the "lucky numbers" on the back of fortunes. Manufacturing processes vary between plants but they follow the same procedure; the ingredients are squirted onto fast moving trays. These are heated to cook the dough. Cookies are compressed with round hot plates to cook them; the cookies bake for one minute and are reshaped. They can be folded by hand; when automated, a machine folds the cookie into the right orientation with the fortune inside. Cooled and hardened cookies are sealed in plastic wrap