Japan has lots of Chinese restaurants, but fortune cookies are much harder to find.

You can find Chinese restaurants all across Japan, as after Japan’s indigenous cuisine Chinese food is arguably the next most widely popular type of cooking in the country. Japan also gets excited when a big-name restaurant group from overseas opens a branch in Japan.

So with that combination of factors, Chinese fast food chain Panda Express arrived in Japan in 2017. They’ve kept their menu more or less intact, offering many of the same signature items that they do at locations in other countries, with one big exception: there were no fortune cookies in Japan…until now.

Depending on where in the world you grew up, fortune cookies might seem like an integral part of the Chinese restaurant dining experience. However, despite their association with Chinese cuisine, fortune cookies, as we know them today, originated in the U.S., becoming a fixture at American Chinese restaurants, especially in southern California, where Panda Express was founded.

While many of the dishes served at Chinese restaurants in Japan have had their flavors and ingredients adapted to suit mainstream Japanese palates, the primary influence remains indigenously Chinese, and so fortune cookies are never given out at Chinese restaurants in Japan. In February, though, Panda Express Japan began giving the treats out at select branches, and as of this month, diners can get them at any of the chain’s locations in the country, free of charge with the purchase of a meal.

▼ “Cast off your fears, and believe in yourself,” reads this Panda Express Japan fortune.

Panda Express is making no secret as to the national origin of its fortune cookies, referring to the as “the representative dessert of American Chinese” food in its press release. “We hope these will be a symbol of the thanks we feel to our customers and that good fortune will spread to all of you,” the company goes on to say. With some historians tracing the inspiration for fortune cookies to confectionaries enjoyed by Japanese immigrants in the U.S., one could make the argument that this is a homecoming of sorts for the dessert.

As with their American counterparts, the purpose of Panda Express Japan’s fortune cookies is more to offer a little message of encouragement or pearl of wisdom. With Japan already having a bit of a soft spot for semi-randomized fortunes in the form of its omikuji fortune drawing tradition at shrines and temples, and simply a love of sweets in general, odds are the fortune cookies are gong to be a smile-inducing surprise for Panda Express diners in Japan.

Related: Panda Express Japan location finder
Source, images: PR Times
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