Unfortunately, there is no real “Midnight Diner” that exists. The bar/restaurant that Midnight Diner was shot in was constructed in a set made specifically for the purpose.
Specifically, Midnight Diner was shot in Iruma-city, Saitama prefecture, in a large warehouse. It seems both the iconic “meshiya” restaurant and the surrounding street were constructed for the shooting.
So, sadly, there is no actual “Midnight Diner”, from the many seasons of Midnight Diner, in Tokyo that you can go and visit.
Indeed the bar/restaurant in the series is purposely presented as a generic little bar like many you might find in the entertainment districts of Japan.
The establishment doesn’t even have an identifiable name. It is simply known as the “meshiya”, which is a generic, colloquial term for “restaurant”.
There are similar restaurants scattered around urbanized Japan.
This is both disappointing in a way, but exciting in another. It’s disappointing because there is no way to go and visit the “actual” restaurant. But it’s exciting because you can step into just about any little bar off a shady side street in one of Japan’s larger cities and seek out your own “Midnight Diner-like” experience.
Where is the Midnight Diner Located in the show?
The area most frequently quoted as being the most likely location of the Midnight Diner is Tokyo’s Golden Gai area in Shinjuku. This area is similar to the small street that The Midnight Diner is located on, and similar small shops and diners litter both of these real life locations.
You won’t be able to find the exact same diner found in the TV show though.The show, which is based on a manga, does not specifically say where the diner is located.
It’s likely that the television show drew its inspiration for real life restaurants. Late night restaurants are especially popular in heavily populated areas of Japan like Tokyo and Osaka.
Nightlife is an important aspect of the culture in Japan, especially densely populated areas like Tokyo. A lot of people work long hours, even if they aren’t night shift workers. This means stopping at an all night restaurant for a meal before they go home. This makes for some interesting business ideas in places like Tokyo.
Is there a real Midnight Diner in Tokyo?
Although the diner is fictional, it reflects a real style of drinking and dining in Japan. The high-density living in the country brought about by cities crammed into relatively small spaces in a largely mountainous terrain has brought about a proliferation of small bars with capacities of 10-20 people. These bars tend to be micro melting pots of conversation, conviviality and communal drinking. They’re so small, so it’s hard for them to be anything else.
Japanese bars use this as a strength rather than a weakness. Look at the set up of the Meshiya in Shinya Shokudo Midnight Diner, for example. Shaped as a three sided square, customers are seated looking at each other in a way that makes it almost inevitable that they should end up speaking to each other. The “Master” is placed in the middle, like a ring-leader, or a conductor or, indeed, a facilitator.
The homey atmosphere, grounded in a moody folk soundtrack replete with killer opening theme, mirrors the slow-burning feelings of the people that reside in the margins of a radiant metropolis. The drama uses images of the unforgiving city life to make the audience think about modern urban life. The series successfully portrays the social and existential crises that mask urban Japanese life.
Whereas the narrative offers a couple of surprises, very little deviates from Japanese culture. The producer does a great job to ensure audiences are encased in a gently melancholic and warm atmosphere. Master’s mainly observational role mirrors the city life. He hardly intervenes in his patrons’ struggles, and rarely judges their intentions. Master’s focus is to supply them with a safe place for refuge. He only satisfies their physical need to drink and eat.
In Japanese society, conformity is a time-honored attribute. It is visible in every life aspect, from family structures and schooling to dress code. Their obsession with conformance sometimes means that those that do not succeed through traditional paths are considered failures despite the likelihood of success in the future. Children from broken or unconventional families are often bullied, persons with disabilities made to stay at home, and women have no option but to remain feminine and fit into stereotypes. Diversity is rarely encouraged.
In that context, the series is agreeably uncharacteristic. One of the other characters is a transvestite, another is an androgynous female chauffer, and the other is an attorney from an unconventional family. These characters are deemed outcasts in typical Japanese society. Whereas there are comedic episodes in the television series, the director treats these characters with sensitivity and sincerity.
Were the Midnight Diner comics and TV adaptation based on real bars & restaurants?
Although Midnight Diner isn’t based on any one specific eatery, there are numerous restaurants that are similar to it in Tokyo. Models for the diner can be found throughout Shinjuku Golden Gai. In other cities similar establishments can be found in areas such as Kiyamachi, Pontocho and Gion in Kyoto.
A similar experience can sometimes be had at the local izakaya, informal restaurants & drinking establishments that serve snacks. Often compared to Irish & British pubs in the west, they perhaps serve a similar social function but do it in a very different way.
The series is based on real bars and restaurants. But, as with most makers of successful television, the goal was to provide an immersive and realistic experience for the audience. Compelling storylines and characters are pivotal elements to achieving this, although the location is among the most critical of elements in delivering a centralized feel for the show. For years restaurants have offered TV characters spaces to cry and laugh.
The bar works as the perfect tool for developing and engaging characters. Every meal in the diner serves as a springboard for stories of wide-ranging customer problems: filial piety, international marriages, parenthood stresses, and wasted lives
The diner’s location is in one of the busiest districts in Tokyo. When thinking about modern-day Japan, you envision bright, densely packed bars, infamous restaurants, and electronic stores, and LCD screens covering every building with flashy adverts. It is this atmosphere that the series calls home, isolated in a back street free from traffic.
Despite being like other bars, everything about the diner suggests that the area is otherworldly.