Midnight Diner (Japanese TV series)

Midnight Diner (深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō) is a Japanese anthology TV series directed by Joji Matsuoka, based on the manga of the same name by Yarō Abe. The show focuses on a midnight diner, the chef, known only as "The Master", and his involvement with his customers.

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 language(s)Japanese
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes50
Producer(s)Hitoshi Endo
Natsuko Mori
Takeshi Moriya
Shogo Ishizuka
Jun Takahashi
Running time25 minutes
Original networkMBS
Original release2009 (2009) –


The setting of Midnight Diner is a small 12 seat Izakaya called "Meshiya" in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Despite the restaurant's strange opening hours, 12 am to 7 am, it is popular with the busy and diverse nightlife of Shinjuku. The Shinjuku setting, and the hours of operation, mean that the majority of the story takes place at night, with a few storylines progressing into the early morning.


"The Master", the main character of the show, is the owner, chef, and bartender who runs the titular diner. 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, providing he has the ingredients on hand. Sometimes, customers contribute the ingredients, particularly if they are out of the ordinary. The diner is frequented by a range of customers, ranging from salarymen to yakuza and prostitutes, all of whom generally get along well; only occasionally is there conflict between the characters (e.g. in one scene two characters start fighting and the Master pours water on them).

Generally, each episode deals with a drama focused on a particular customer. (Only rarely are the dramas about the Master himself; one notable exception occurs in the first movie, where the master injures his hand and can't cook). The plot will introduce the characters of the episode, and then detail their personal challenges. The Master, although generally taciturn, offers help and advice to his customers.[1] The plot will generally offer some philosophical lesson as part of the story, be it simple or complicated. Some of the stories are lighthearted, while others venture into more dramatic territory.

Generally, each episode will focus on a particular Japanese dish, often the favorite meal of the character that the episode is about. The dish also relates to the story, and each episode ends with a brief demonstration by The Master of the preparation while a character gives verbal instructions directly to the audience.[2][3]. The Master character also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, to speak to the viewers (e.g. in the TV series, to announce the upcoming movie). In the first movie, the master is assisted by a homeless girl, (played by Tabe Mikako) who learns some of his cooking techniques, though generally he cooks by himself.

While the characters are largely transitional, and are mainly seen in their own episodes, or perhaps in the background as minor characters in one or two other episodes, several characters are regular customers and reappear regularly: a trio of gossiping office ladies known as the Ochazuke Sisters, and Tadashi, an old man who wears a bright blue cap (played by Mansaku Fuwa). Occasionally seen is the restaurant owner Kosuzu (Toshiki Ayata), a homosexual crossdresser, Komichi the photographer, and Yakuza boss Ryu (Yutaka Matsushige).[4]

Occasionally, the stories will adopt magic realism overtones, including one story that features a ghost. Critics and audiences have also suggested that the Tadashi character may be a type of Japanese demon that is seen at bars[citation needed].

Recurring charactersEdit

The MasterEdit

The main character of the show is the Master. He is a somewhat mysterious figure; he is well regarded for his cooking talents, but his background is not detailed. He has a very obvious scar down the side of his face, implied in one episode to be from a sword cut from a rough past life; however, this is otherwise never explained. The Master's actual name is never given. He is a sympathetic character. However, despite the various problems his customer has, he never gets too involved in their affairs, and is generally not involved in scenes with them, except at his restaurant. His main way of assisting is to bring comfort by making food, and to provide advice.

His character is similar to a bartender in the way that he functions as an adviser/psychiatrist, and the characters project their insecurities or issues on to him, or discuss and mull over their problems with him. He doesn't engage upon in-depth conversation. However, what wisdom he shares seems to have an effect. Instead of getting involved in people's issues directly, he mainly offers advice. Most of the time, he is cooking, cleaning dishes, or having a cigarette in the kitchen.

The master has a few rules for the kitchen, he has a limit of three drinks per person, and any fighting has to be taken outside.[5]

Tadashi / ChuEdit

Tadashi (played by Mansaku Fuwa) is the character in the show that most frequently appears, apart from the master. He is an older man, who is always seen wearing a flat cap or some sort of hat. He occasionally offers advice, and harmless banter. Generally the stories don't involve him, he is just in the Izakaya to pass comment.

The Ochazuke SistersEdit

The three office ladies, like Tadashi, are generally not involved in the drama and are among the most frequently recurring characters; they appear in all four seasons and the two movies. With bowls of ochazuke in hand, they offer commentary on the drama, being generally sympathetic to the involved parties; otherwise, they typically provide filler dialogue.


The Yakuza boss Ryu is featured less in the Izakaya, his main feature is that he likes to eat childish food.

Police OfficerEdit

There is a police officer close by in a kōban, who sometimes features in a less significant, but recurring role.


The show has been a success in Japan,[6][7] with five seasons produced in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2019. Also, to date, two movies were produced by TBS and MBS, Midnight Diner (2014) and Midnight Diner 2 (2016). The fourth season (known in the US as "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories") was produced in 2016 by TBS and Netflix Japan. Netflix Japan purchased streaming and production rights from the Japanese producer to produce the fourth and the fifth series, which are shown on Netflix internationally.

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.[8]

East Asian remakesEdit

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.[citation needed]

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


Main cast

  • Kaoru Kobayashi as The Master
  • Joe Odagiri as Katagiri and (in later seasons) police officer Kogure
  • Asako Kobayashi as Rumi
  • Mansaku Fuwa as Tadashi / Chu - San
  • Kaoru Hirata as Saya
  • Yutaka Matsushige as Ryu
  • Toshiki Ayata as Kosuzu
  • Yuichiro Nakayama as Hachiro
  • Tomoko Tabata as Miyuki Chidori
  • Tomorowo Taguchi as Sakushika
  • Toru Kazama as Taiboku Erekuto
  • Sumie Sasaki as Taiboku's mom )
  • Sogen Tanaka as Tanaka
  • Naoaki Kenmochi as Anzai
  • Junya Kawashima as Suwa
  • Ryo Iwamatsu as Masao Toyama
  • Morio Agata as Goro
  • Koromo Tomosato as Ritsuko Toyama
  • Tomomitsu Adachi
  • Takuma Otoo as katutoshi kawada
  • Reika Kirishima as Akemi
  • Marino Kuwajima as Mayu
  • Shinya Natsume as snack bar customer
  • Kei Tanaka as Nakajima
  • Eri Murakawa as Risa Aikawa
  • Takeshi Yamamoto as producer
  • You as Noriko Kajami
  • Denden as homeless
  • Lily as Yachiyo
  • Ryotaro Yonemura as Mitchell Kajama
  • Sakuya Nakamura as Kenta
  • Maki Ishikawa as Yuki
  • Ken Mitsuishi as detective
  • Mikako Tabe as Michiru Kuriyama


  1. ^ Herald, The Korea (2015-06-23). "[Herald Review] Like Japanese food, 'Midnight Diner' is mild but heartwarming". Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  2. ^ ""Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" is the best (and most appetizing) show no one is watching". Newsweek. 2016-12-07. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  3. ^ "Netflix's 'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' is the Food-Centric Drama of the Year". SAVEUR. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  4. ^ "Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is the next great show from Netflix Japan". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  5. ^ "'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' Is a Hidden Gem on Netflix". Vice. 2016-12-28. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  6. ^ "9 J-Dramas for K-Drama Fans to Start Watching | Viu". Viu. 2017-10-20. Retrieved 2017-10-23.
  7. ^ "'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' Is Decidedly Low-Key, But It Does One Thing More American Shows Should". Decider. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  8. ^ "What's Coming to Netflix in June 2020". What’s On Netflix. 2020-06-12. Retrieved 2020-06-17.

External linksEdit