Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
There is a really good series on Netflix called “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories”. The series centers around a diner in Tokyo that is open from midnight to 7 a.m. in the morning. The owner of the diner is the only person that works there, and there is only one dish and some alcohol on the menu. Even though the menu consists of only tonjiru, sake, shochu, and beer, he will make almost anything that a customer would like to eat. There are a few rules around this though, he has to have the ingredients on hand (or the customer has to provide them), and it can’t be an overly complicated dish to make. There are a wide variety of customers that visit the diner providing for interesting stories. The diner is located in Shinjuku, and each episode centers around a main character and their favorite food. Each episode is also named for the favorite dish of the main character.
I really like this series, and English subtitles are available if, like me, your Japanese is a little rusty. The show is funny, and I even almost cried a few times. There is usually something to learn about life from each episode. In the first episode (Tan Men) a man discovers that another customer is a former television star from a popular series. I can’t say much without spoilers, but let’s just say that the former star was running from their past, but then learned to embrace it.
If you’d like to get a feeling about how ‘master and apprentice’ relationships sometimes turn out, the second episode (Corn Dog) is also really good. The apprentice eclipses the master and becomes a huge star, which leads the old master to become bitter and resentful. If you want to experience how annoying an angry Japanese male voice can be, this is the episode to watch. They say that the Japanese normally hide their true feelings. Not this guy, he lets it all out.
The third episode (Tonteki) centers around a female office worker who easily becomes attracted to men that she meets. She learned how to knit when she was really young, and she knits things for these men even before she learns if they are attracted to her or not. This leads to having her heart broken again and again. But, of course, her chasing after a man leads her to overlook a man that is clearly interested in her.
The show is really funny at times, and even incorporates the supernatural every once in a while. The episode “Umeboshi and Plum Wine” has both of these components. The main character is a man that lived with his mother until she died. It really sank in for him when the umeboshi she had made ran out, and he had no more to eat. He started thinking about how he is so lonely, and that when he dies someone will find his porn DVD collection that is in the home. He is so worried that someone will find it, that he asks master to throw them away for him after he dies. The spirit of the man’s mother comes to him at night, and wants to be let into the house. This leads others to conclude that she left something important behind, and that her spirit won’t rest until it is taken care of. So, the man and some of the fellow diners decide to search the house for whatever his mother’s spirit might be looking for. They eventually find it, and it turns out that it was related to her son’s own fears about what would be found in the house after he died.
As already mentioned, I really like this show and it is highly recommended. I’d like to grow up to be like the master one day.