Eating together at Midnight Diner

by - 14:10

The latest eating-related trends in South Korea highlight the value of “alone” time. More people are now dining out or drinking solo than ever before and “meokbang” videos – watching others eat – continue to attract a huge audience.

In the drama series Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, however, a motley crew of night owls – on-duty policemen, transvestites, bar waitresses, businessmen working overtime – flock to a tiny restaurant that only opens after dark, to eat together.

Located in a hidden corner of Tokyo’s cramped back alleys, the diner, its chef “Master”, played by Kaoru Kobayashi,  and his food offer solace to the lonely and the hungry.

The Japanese TV sensation is now available on Netflix. The online service has produced the fourth season of the drama series. The first three seasons that aired on Japanese networks starting in 2009, and a film of the same title, garnered massive popularity in Japan and also generated a following throughout Asia.

In the new 10-episode season, South Korean actress Go Ah-sung stars in the fourth episode as Korean immigrant Yu-na. The character works as a bar waitress in Japan to pay off her family’s debt and falls in love with a timid physics researcher she meets at the Midnight Diner.

All episodes revolve around a homey Japanese dish, and the one Yu-na learns to make is the omurice – an omelette enveloping fried rice and topped with ketchup.

“I’ve been a fan of the series since long ago. I have all the DVDs,” Go said at the press screening of the series in southern Seoul recently.

“We filmed in the winter, but it didn’t feel so cold. The series is heartwarming,” she said.

Director Joji Matsuoka, who has been directing the Japanese series for the past seven years, helmed the Netflix rendition as well. “Nothing much has changed,” he said regarding his directorial style and his worldview.

“But now, I’m able to reach more people through a bigger entryway,” he said. “A British woman approached me once, saying she was a huge fan of the show.”

Go was cast after Matsuoka saw her in the 2006 film The Host, directed by Bong Joon-ho. “She had made a lasting impression,” he said.

Netflix had also required Matsuoka cast at least one foreign actor in the series, he said.

“Most of the stories feature people who are at a turning point in their lives.

“They share their lives with Master, who nourishes them with food. Their courage ultimately helps them take a new step forward in life,” the director said. – The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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