For me, one of the great side-effects of this Peak TV world we live in are the times when I discover some small international TV series. There are times when I just want to lean back and let a show wash over me like a soft summer breeze. Losing myself in a television show might not be emotionally transformative, but it can sometimes be just the mental palate cleanser I need.
"Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" is a Japanese TV series set in a small 12-seat diner in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It is only open from Midnight until 7:00 a.m. and it's roughly equivalent to a small neighborhood tapas bar. It serves a few drinks and a small selection of food items.
The diner is run by a mysterious man called "The Master," played by (Kaoru Kobayashi).He generally only has 2-3 dishes available each night, but he tells diners he can make just about any dish on demand if he has the ingredients. He doesn't interact deeply with his diners, but drifts in and out of conversations to provide this very zen-like advice and guidance.
Each 25-minute long episode generally focuses on an individual diner and the meal they've ordered. Most of the show takes place in the diner or in nighttime world of the highlighted diner. The diner is also generally facing some sort of challenge and by the end of the episode has figured out the solution to their problem thanks to the support of fellow diners, The Master or some combination of the two. There are also plenty of quiet shots of nighttime Tokyo, backed by sparse instrumentals that come off as almost other-worldly.
"Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" isn't great television. But it's this wonderfully quiet show that provides these warm little slice-of-life stories about life in Tokyo. It's the perfect show to turn on when it's late at night and you just need to let your mind drift mindlessly like a bottle floating in a warm sea.
Netflix just added a second season of the show, which is actually the fifth season of the series in Japan. There have also been a couple of movies as well as single seasons of the show produced in South Korea and China.
"Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories" is currently available on Netflix.