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I'm planning a trip to Japan later this year with my parents. My parents are huge fans of the Netflix show Midnight Diner (深夜食堂). While I know the actual restaurant in Midnight Diner is fake and the show isn't based on a true story, I was wondering if there are any places in Japan that have a similar atmosphere to the restaurant in Midnight Diner that I could take them to. My parents don't speak Japanese, but I do, so I could act as translator; language barrier is not an issue for us.

Preferably in Tokyo and preferably in Shinjuku, because that's where Midnight Diner takes place, although we're also going to spend a bunch of time in Osaka so a place there would also be acceptable.

Thanks!

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  • Have you been to Tokyo/Shinjuku before?
    – Upper_Case
    Feb 19 '20 at 21:42
  • @Upper_Case I have spent an extended period of time in Japan before (2 1/2 years total, roughly, over 6 previous trips) but I have never explored the area for this particular thing before.
    – Ertai87
    Feb 19 '20 at 21:43
  • I was writing an answer about exploring Tokyo at night and asking locals where they like to go after work (I found great places filled with off-duty maid café maids and bartenders in Akihabara and elsewhere), but that seems like it would be too entry-level for you. Good luck!
    – Upper_Case
    Feb 19 '20 at 21:49
  • @Upper_Case If you could share some of the places you've found/would recommend, that might be helpful! I'm a bit too shy to walk up to randoms and just ask them randomly (otherwise I wouldn't be asking this question here, I'd just do it there :p )
    – Ertai87
    Feb 19 '20 at 21:50
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    @hippietrail There are still quite a few of them, but not as many. I don't think Denny's is open past 12.
    – xuq01
    May 22 '21 at 18:28
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I'm a fan of NHK World (which I get through Sky TV here in the UK). I regularly catch a show called "Document 72 Hours", and they have covered several late night/all night eating places. Here are a couple of examples:

I also remember seeing one quite a while ago about an all night noodle place near the docks in Akita, but cannot find a link.

Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with Midnight Diner, so can't say if any of these places are anything like the fictional diner in the show.

I know none of the places featured above are in Shinjuku, but I would be pretty certain that, if such places exist in provincial towns and cities, then they almost certainly exist in Tokyo as well.

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    Upvoted as its a good answer. Though I would note on the final part.... that the sort of place concerned is far more common in smaller towns and cities than in Tokyo, particularly central Tokyo. Shinjuku et al are so busy that small mom and/or pop diners have largely been taken over by chains or gone very commercial themselves. In Tokyo I think you'd have better luck in the less developed, less trendy parts of the city. Out east is more likely IMO. Feb 20 '20 at 9:57
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+100

The restaurant in the series is supposedly set in Shinjuku's Golden Gai, but there doesn't really appear to be anything quite like it there.

However, this article (in Japanese) asserts that the actual inspiration was a real kushikatsu (fried stuff on a stick) joint called Yagura Kushikatsu in Tennoji, Osaka:

串カツ専門店 やぐら +81 6-6714-7211 https://maps.app.goo.gl/YRbmLxHaS3rGkbFf6

The connection is a bit convoluted though. Like the series, Yagura's regulars include taxi drivers, nightlife workers, and others up in the middle of the night. One of them was famous rakugo actor/singer Jakusaburō Katsura, who wrote a song about the restaurant called Yagura March (やぐら行進曲) in 1996, talking about a magical shop that opens at midnight with characters including those taxi drivers and a "Cinderella forgotten by time". Japanese manga artist Yaro Abe heard the song, liked the concept, and that's how the Midnight Diner comic and later TV series were born.

However, Abe never visited the restaurant, so many details like the idea of not having a menu are not the same. Also, the original Yagura relocated from the original Kyobashi to Tennoji some time ago, and the new location is open during regular business hours, not in the middle of the night. Perhaps easier for tourists, but not quite so atmospheric.

For what it's worth, in my student days I used to be a regular at a very Midnight Dinerish establishment in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo, which was open very late and where the menu consisted of whatever was on hand that day (the deep-fried river shrimp/kawaebi were to die for). However, the owner had a drinking problem, ran into trouble with some gentlemen in loud suits missing their pinky fingers, and had to leave town on short notice. Hope you're doing OK, Kashihara-san...

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Take it from one who first traveled to Japan over 50 years ago and has had good fortune to return many times.. See my photo of Yodo River in Osaka below The area of Shinjuku known as "Golden Gai" has about an 8 block labyrith of small bar/cafe's that in some cases only accomondate 8 to 10 people. Many of which are members only establishments. Other's require a cover charge. Because of this unique area of Shinjuku it is inundated with tourist tours and spectators, so much so that it lost it's true favor. Locals, no longer find it their favorite spot due to the character and popularity of such Netflick programs as "Midnight diner" that was once a well kept secret has gone "public" much to the chagrin of Tokyo's inhabitants. Originality has been lost to tourist commeercialism and chain establishments selling pseudo originality in many of the unique neighborhoods through out major metropolis of the globe.

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  • While the series is indeed set in Golden Gai, the area consists almost entirely of bars that don't really serve food, and thus feel quite different. May 21 '21 at 5:04

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