Midnight Diner (Japanese TV series)

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Midnight Diner
Also known asShinya Shokudō
Slice of life
Based onShinya Shokudō
by Yarō Abe
Directed byJoji Matsuoka
Nobuhiro Yamashita
Shotarou Kobayashi
StarringKaoru Kobayashi
Country of originJapan
Original languageJapanese
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes50 (list of episodes)
ProducersHitoshi Endo
Natsuko Mori
Takeshi Moriya
Shogo Ishizuka
Jun Takahashi
Running time25 minutes
Original network
  • MBS (2009-2014)
  • Netflix (2016-2019)
Original release2009 (2009) –
2019 (2019)

Midnight Diner (深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō) is a Japanese TV anthology series based on the manga by Yarō Abe, Shin'ya Shokudō. It focuses on a late-night diner in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, its mysterious chef known only as "Master," and the lives of his customers. It is directed by Joji Matsuoka.


The setting is a nameless 12-seat diner in Shinjuku Tokyo, open from midnight to 7 am.


When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it "Midnight Diner". [cut to menu listing "pork miso soup combo, beer, sake, shochu"] That's all I have on my menu. But I make whatever customers request as long as I have the ingredients for it. That's my policy. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.[1]

"The Master", the main character of the show, is the owner, chef, and bartender. While he has a very limited menu (consisting only of tonjiru, sake, beer and shōchū), he always offers to produce any dish that a customer may want, as long as he has the ingredients on hand. Master refuses to cook any dishes that are beyond his skills or overly complicated. Sometimes, customers contribute the ingredients, particularly if they are out of the ordinary or a very specific craving.[2] Master enforces a strict three-bottles-per-person alcohol policy, except on New Year's Eve when alcohol is free-flow. The diner is frequented by a range of customers, from salarymen to yakuza and prostitutes, all of whom generally get along well; only occasionally is there conflict between the characters while inside the diner.

Generally, each episode deals with a drama focused on a particular customer. The plot introduces the characters of the episode, often using well-known archetypes and tropes, before detailing their personal challenges. Master, although generally reserved, offers help and advice.[3] The plot generally offers a philosophical life lesson as part of the story, be it simple or complicated. The stories are usually lighthearted in tone, but some venture into more dramatic territory with melancholy resolutions.

Most episodes focus on a particular Japanese dish, often the favorite meal of the character the episode is about. The dish also relates in some way to the story, and the episode ends with Master giving a brief demonstration of how to prepare the dish while a character from the episode gives verbal instructions directly to the audience.[4][5] Master also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, to speak to the viewers, e.g., in the TV series, to announce the upcoming movie or to announce the end of a season. Master cooks everything by himself, requesting help only if he knows he cannot do something or if he is incapacitated, e.g., In the first movie, Master is assisted by a homeless girl played by Mikako Tabe after he sustains an injury.

While the characters are largely transitional, and seen mainly in their own self-contained episodes, some are often seen as minor characters or cameos in one or two other episodes. Several characters are regular customers of the diner and appear regularly.[6] A few stories adopt magic realism overtones, including supernatural elements, while others utilize montages and time skips to fully tell a character's story.

Cast and characters[edit]

Main character[edit]

  • Master (Kaoru Kobayashi) – the only character to appear in every episode. He is a somewhat mysterious figure; well-regarded for his cooking prowess, his background is largely unknown. He has a visible scar down the left side of his face, implied in one episode to be from a sword attack in a past life; however, its origin is never properly explained. There is a subtle reference to his involvement in the Yakuza. In Season 1, episode 1, in his initial interaction with Ryu Kenzaki (Yokata Matsushige), Master pulls his chef's knife and conceals it behind his back until he believes Ryu is not a threat. At the end of Season 1, Episode 10, Katagiri (Joe Odagiri), a former high-profile casino kingpin, apologizes for the scar. Master's actual name is never given. He is generally sympathetic, despite the various problems his customers have, though he never gets too involved in their affairs. Generally, he is not directly involved in outside scenes with them, interacting only when they come to his diner. However, there is one episode where Master does venture outside of his diner (Season 1; Episode 10) to confront Gen (Takashi Yamanaka) in Kosuzu's (Toshiki Ayata) bar to turn himself in. Regardless his primary manner of assisting people is to bring them comfort by making food, and to provide advice. His character is similar to a bartender in that he functions as an adviser/therapist as the characters project their insecurities or issues onto him, or discuss and mull over their problems. Most of the time, he is seen cooking, washing dishes, or having a cigarette either in the diner or on the small balcony of his upstairs apartment. He has a few unwritten rules for the customers: There is a three-drink limit per person, as he does not run a bar; there is a three-toothpick limit as well (Season 3, Ep 4); and any arguments must be taken outside.[7]

Regular customers[edit]

  • Tadashi/Mr. Chu (Mansaku Fuwa [ja]): Frequently addressed as "Chu-san", he is the character in the show that most frequently appears (apart from Master). He is a cheerful older man, who is always seen wearing a blue cap. He occasionally offers advice and harmless banter to the other customers in the diner. Generally, the stories do not involve him, he instead sits in the diner to pass comment and reminisce about his youth.
  • Kosuzu (Toshiki Ayata): A homosexual cross dresser who owns a successful restaurant/gay bar in the same neighborhood as the diner. Kosuzu is often seen dressed in eccentric outfits while at the same time chastising others for their appearance or behavior. He enjoys gossiping but is quick to defend his friends at the diner and his restaurant employees from scrutiny. He forms an unlikely friendship with Ryu.
  • Ryu Kenzaki (Yutaka Matsushige): Yakuza boss Ryu stops by the diner randomly, always asking for Master to prepare dishes from his childhood. Ryu's storylines largely take place outside the diner and despite being a member of the Yakuza, the other customers worry about his well-being. He forms an unlikely friendship with Kosuzu. He has a turbulent past with Detective Noguchi, with whom he was a schoolmate and a member of the same baseball team. Although a Yakuza member, he has occasionally shown a generous streak, such as negotiating with loan sharks to extend a deadline and reduce interest on an overdue loan taken out by one of the patrons. Nevertheless, he remains mostly reserved and aloof from the others.
  • Detective Noguchi (Ken Mitsuishi): A diligent, by-the-book police detective, who visits the diner when he is on a case or to indulge in a specific craving. A baseball player in high school, Noguchi enjoys eating food from his youth that remind him of traveling during baseball tournaments. He has a turbulent past with Ryu Kenzaki, with whom he was a schoolmate and a member of the same baseball team.
  • Komichi (Shohei Uno): An amateur photographer who takes photographs of the diner customers and occasionally has exhibitions in a local art gallery. He is a bit clueless when it comes to proper etiquette and he is often distracted by other characters so that he does not embarrass himself.
  • The Ochazuke Sisters (Risa Sudo, Asako Kobayashi, Nahoko Yoshimito): Collectively called "The Ochazuke Sisters" by Master and other customers, Miki, Rumi, and Kana are three office ladies who go to the diner after a long day of work to unwind and gossip. Like Tadashi, they are generally not involved in the drama and are among the most frequently recurring characters. With bowls of ochazuke in hand, they offer commentary on the drama, being generally sympathetic to the involved parties whilst complaining that they are still unmarried.
  • Kanemoto (Kiyofumi Kaneko): A divorced alcoholic, Kanemoto works as a salaryman and comes to the diner because the other customers are the only people he enjoys interacting with. He is generally moody and carries a serious face, only becoming cheery when he gets to show off his intelligence or gets a new girlfriend.
  • Katagiri (Joe Odagiri): A mysterious patron, he always sits in the back-corner of the diner closest to Master's kitchen area. He drinks sake and is frequently seen playing with food (namely peanuts and egg shells) before arranging them in neat rows. Unlike the other customers, Katagiri dresses in traditional Japanese clothing and speaks in cryptic, philosophical statements that are left open to interpretation. He has a special relationship with Master, as he is the only person with whom Katagiri converses normally.
  • Kogure (Joe Odagiri): Only appears in seasons 3, 4, and 5. He is a police officer who works in the neighborhood kōban with jurisdiction over the Master's diner as well as the neighboring shops and restaurants. He often hangs out with Detectives Izumi and Noguchi at the kōban, slurping ramen together, and his cheerful, sociable personality contrasts with the reserved Noguchi and the unconventional Izumi.

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Hachiro (Yuichiro Nakayama): A soft-spoken and idealistic man, Hachiro is usually seen disagreeing with The Ochazuke Sisters on important matters like love and money.
  • Gen (Takashi Yamanaka): A member of the Yakuza, Gen is Ryu's loudmouthed junior. Despite making a bad first impression, Master and Gen grow to tolerate each other as Gen matures and begins taking his responsibilities both as a Yakuza and beyond more seriously.
  • Jun (Yuko Genkaku): A bartender at Kosuzu's bar, Jun is a trans woman who often visits the diner with her timid boyfriend. They share a love of Natto.
  • Mariko "Marilyn" Matsushima (Tamae Andô): Referred to as "Marilyn-chan", she is a popular stripper in Shinjuku and friend of Tadashi. She consistently has trouble establishing good relationships with men, and often laments her unmarried status alongside The Ochazuke Sisters.
  • Saya Adachi (Kaoru Hirata): A young woman who works as a clerk in a pachinko parlor. She frequents the diner in search of chicken karaage, a highball and occasionally a quick nap. She gets along well with the other customers who care about her and protect her from people who take try to take advantage of her innocence.
  • Adachi-san (Tomomitsu Adachi): Saya's older brother who disapproves of her actions. He is an accomplished martial artist, and often uses his skills in his job as a police officer.
  • Ko (Yukihiro Yoshimi): One of Kosuzu's friends. Ko is transgender, and always asks for a "jumbo portion" when ordering at Master's diner.
  • Kasumi (Mitsuki Tanimura): An Osaka native who moves to Tokyo in season 3. She visited Master's diner to enjoy his tempura, whereupon Komichi fell in love with her. Kasumi is always shown to be running around Shinjuku, yet no one knows what her job is.
  • Detective Izumi Natsuki (Yukiko Shinohara): Detective Noguchi's partner. Her unorthodox tactics are the complete opposite of his, leading to constant disagreement over the best course of action. She enjoys the company of both Master and Officer Kogure.


The show has been a success in Japan,[8][9] with five seasons produced in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, and 2019. To date, two theatrical feature films were produced by TBS and MBS: Midnight Diner (2014) and Midnight Diner 2 (2016) (Released Japan Nov 5th after the series 4 ended). The fourth season (released as Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories) was produced in 2016 by Netflix Japan. Netflix Japan purchased streaming and production rights from the original Japanese producers to produce the fourth and the fifth series, which are shown on Netflix internationally. The ten episodes of the fourth series were streamed on October 21, 2016. The ten episodes of the fifth series were simultaneously streamed on October 31, 2019.

While the fourth and fifth seasons were released under the title Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix began streaming the first three seasons separately under the original title "Midnight Diner" in June 2020.[10]

International reception[edit]

In recommending the show The New Yorker compared Midnight Diner to Cheers and High Maintenance in the way it "finds whimsy in the mundane", adding that its "slow, meditative rhythms" discouraged binge-watching.[11] The show has also been described as one of Netflix's "hidden gems".[12]


SeriesSeasonEpisodesOriginally airedNetworkStatus
First airedLast aired
Midnight Diner110October 9, 2009 (2009-10-09)December 11, 2009 (2009-12-11)MBSReleased
210October 14, 2011 (2011-10-14)December 16, 2011 (2011-12-16)
310October 20, 2014 (2014-10-20)December 22, 2014 (2014-12-22)
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories110October 21, 2016 (2016-10-21)October 21, 2016 (2016-10-21)Netflix
210October 31, 2019 (2019-10-31)October 31, 2019 (2019-10-31)

East Asian remakes[edit]

Following the success of the original Japanese version, Korean and Chinese versions were made. The Korean version, Late Night Restaurant, was mildly successful, and one season was made.[13]

The Chinese television version, also called Midnight Diner, deviated significantly from the original and was poorly received. At the time of its release, it was the lowest rated TV show in Douban history.[14][15]

A Chinese language film adaptation, directed by Tony Leung Ka-fai was released in 2019.[16]


  1. ^ "New Year's Eve Noodles Again". Midnight Diner. Season 1. Episode 10. MBS.
  2. ^ Tieryas, Peter (28 November 2019). "Midnight Diner's "Chicken Fried Rice" Episode Combines Good Food, Video Games, And Family". Kotaku. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  3. ^ Herald, The Korea (2015-06-23). "[Herald Review] Like Japanese food, 'Midnight Diner' is mild but heartwarming". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  4. ^ Bort, Ryan (2016-12-07). ""Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" is the best (and most appetizing) show no one is watching". Newsweek. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  5. ^ Dao, Dan. "Netflix's 'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' is the Food-Centric Drama of the Year". SAVEUR. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  6. ^ "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is the next great show from Netflix Japan". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  7. ^ Peltz, Jonathan (2016-12-28). "'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' Is a Hidden Gem on Netflix". Vice. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  8. ^ "9 J-Dramas for K-Drama Fans to Start Watching | Viu". Viu. 2017-10-20. Archived from the original on 2020-02-17. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  9. ^ Reid, Joe (2016-10-25). "'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' Is Decidedly Low-Key, But It Does One Thing More American Shows Should". Decider. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  10. ^ Moore, Kasey (2020-06-12). "What's Coming to Netflix in June 2020". What's On Netflix. Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  11. ^ "Review: "Midnight Diner"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  12. ^ Peltz, Jonathan (28 December 2016). "'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' Is a Hidden Gem on Netflix". VICE. Retrieved 10 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Late Night Restaurant (TV Series 2015) - IMDb". IMDb.
  14. ^ Jie, Jiang (14 June 2017). "Chinese version of 'Midnight Diner' fails to win over audiences". People's Daily.
  15. ^ "Remake of 'Midnight Diner' tasteless". Shenzhen Daily.
  16. ^ Parker, Andrew (20 September 2019). "Review: Midnight Diner". The Gate. Retrieved 2 November 2020.

External links[edit]