the recipe for community building (or: “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories”)

(From Season 1, Episode 10 — “New Year’s Eve Noodles, Again”)¬†

After the last of the New Year’s revelers¬†have left the midnight diner– stomachs full with buckwheat noodles and beer–the Master gets a visit from someone in his past. Her name is a mystery to the viewer.

Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories – S1:E10 “New Year’s Eve Noodles, Again”

“Master, you are a lucky man. You have so many great customers.”

“You’re right.”

“You attract them.”

“No. I just open the diner at the same time every day, make whatever they want, and close the diner at the same time every day. That’s all.”

“Sounds like a great diner.”


That’s my favorite piece of dialogue.

Resilience and consistency are good neighbors when it comes to creating anything enduring, whether it’s a midnight diner, a tea time tradition, or a friendship. Serve warm food and people will find their way to you. Kind of like how the Waffle House restaurants in the United States can still open during a category-5 hurricane. So long as the business is running, there’s still life and hope.

One of the odder things with consistency and trust is that once people mark you as dependable they start projecting all sorts of other values and virtues onto you. Customers come to him with woes and celebrations as though he’s a therapist. But all he does is stand, give a knowing glance, and return to cooking food. The other customers jump in with their own gossip. Maybe just being there is therapy enough.


Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a charming show. It has heart. No big plot lines, just a bunch of oddballs and everyday people meeting over beer and homestyle meals. Each episode stands on its own and is grounded on some delicious-looking Japanese dish. After a few episodes, you’ll start to recognize the regulars and see how their lives are connected.

Oh wait, that’s just like real life.


Cheers to all the people who work and stay open late for those who don’t want to go home just yet in the evening.