5 homely Netflix movies that transport you to the Japanese kitchen

“Dinner sounds nice with a warm bowl of Ramen…”, I was mumbling on my way from school back home one day. 

a bowl of ramen noodle
A bowl of ramen noodle

We might have those moments in life that we spent seconds, minutes, hours deciding what dishes to be served on our table throughout the day. “Single”, “Employed”, “Young”, “Tired”, all those descriptive titles never kept us from thinking about how to satisfy our little tummy. Eat to live, live to eat, human is human and food is food. 

Hours of preparation and making, that dish of deliciousness disappears into thin air within minutes. Fleeting existence, yet, food stores time, memories, and emotions.

A mysterious master of a diner opening from 12:00 AM to 7:00 AM.

A hard-headed woman stuck with the memories of her youth.

An unmarried gay couple working hard all day just to enjoy a few minutes of dinner together at night.

A strange Japanese woman operates a restaurant that no one visited in Helsinki.

and…

A freelance Japanese salaryman eats, works, and lives at his own pace.   

5 movies (or movie series), 5 stories transporting viewers to the Japanese table from anywhere else in the world. Traditional cuisine (和食・Washoku), Western dishes (洋食・Youshoku) or Chinese-influenced dishes (中華・Chuuka), let the culinary narrator take you on a trip to Japan and comfort your exhausting soul after a long working day.

 

5 NETFLIX Japanese Movies for The Gourmet Souls

  1. Midnight Diner (深夜食堂/Shinya Shokudo)
  2. Little Forest (小森/Komori)
  3. What did we eat yesterday? (昨日何を食べた/Kinou nani wo Tabeta)
  4. Kamome Diner (かもめ食堂/Kamome Shokudo)
  5. Solitary Gourmet (孤独のグルメ/Kodoku no Gurume)

 


Midnight Diner (深夜食堂/Shinya Shokudo)

the master of meshiya
深夜食堂/Shinya Shokudo. Source: meshiya.tv

“Meshiya”, a small diner operates at the back alley of Shinjuku. 

Run by a scarred old man, the shop is open from midnight to 7:00 in the morning. What’s on the menu? “Pork Miso Soup, Beer, Sake, Shochu”, simple as it is. With the master’s policy “できるもんなら、なんでも作るよ”/ “If that’s something within ability, he will cook you anything”, the late-night cafeteria is a stopover for people to unwind and enjoy their favorite dishes.

No one knows the master’s name or history, but each of his customers brings him theirs. Humorous and heartfelt stories unfolded at a mundane diner, where people find simple yet profound connections with one another based on the shared love with a particular dish. 

“Human’s ability is not limitless, wouldn’t it be so bad to ask for help from others?”

“Human, no matter how sad a moment can be, the urge to fill one’s stomach is still there”

“It’s not what we eat that matters, who we eat with does”


Little Forest (小森/Komori)

little forest movies
Little Forest. Source: eiga.com

Fleeing heartbreak in a big city, Ichiko went back to her hometown, Komori, to live a self-sufficient life. Baking bread with the old fire pit in the humid rainy summer. Picking chestnut and making Nutella in autumn. Baking a three-color Christmas cake in winter. Making tempura from wild veggies and light batter in spring. 

Every corner of the house is filled with memories of the old days living with her absent mother. Staying in the tumbledown house on the mountain, planting vegetables without any experience, making dishes that she did not even think of learning from her mother in the old days, Ichiko brought us into the flow of memory flashback. 

Bread, Cake, Hothouse planted tomatoes, Komesawa, story-telling pieces that we explore through the cooking of Ichiko. Many seasons have passed, Ichiko found herself and her lifetime happiness one spring. Eventually.

“With this body, things that I have done, thoughts and feelings that I have confronted, aren’t those things enough to show the full responsibility for my own words?” 


What did we eat yesterday? (昨日何を食べた/Kinou nani wo Tabeta)

a couple cooking together
Shiro and Keiji in ‘What did we eat yesterday?’. Source: TV Tokyo

“What did we eat yesterday?”

Shiro, a lawyer, and his partner, Keiji, a hairdresser, first met at a gay bar. Born and raised in a country where LGBT is still seen as a social and cultural stigma, both Shiro and Keiji have their own struggles to fight for in their own lives. 

Shiro, a “normal” looking guy, was strongly supported by her mom, “Human diversity is a precious thing in the world”. All those caring and encouraging words, Shiro could not fully accept his sexuality and inform his parents of his relationship with Keiji. 

Keiji, an openly gay guy, is madly in love with Shiro. Never fear of showing his affection for his significant other, Keiji, somehow, was concerned with the fact that Shiro could not confront his own identity, sexuality, and their relationships. 

Much of worries, the red thread knotted between the two guys was the lovely supper they have at night together. The first Christmas dinner with lasagna, grilled chicken, pollack roe cream dip with bread slice. No many how many years have passed, the menu would stay the same as their love has since the first day. 

“That you knew my stuff does not mean you understood what I have been through” 


Kamome Diner (かもめ食堂/Kamome Shokudo

three women running a restaurant together
Kamome Shokudo. Source: http://spelunkermen.seesaa.net/

Filmed in the Finnish capital Helsinki in 2006, ‘Kamome Diner’ gave viewers a glimpse into the life of a Japanese woman living far away from her home country. Retro color, Showa period vibe, minimalistic touch, and a simple storyline, watching Sachie’s story with the diner feels like sitting at a secluded beach, seeing one wave to another slowly reaching the shore. 

Patience and Humbleness. 

The menus Sachie recommends are “soul foods” that carry the Japanese spirit, like “onigiri” (rice balls), “tonkatsu teishoku” (Pork Cutlet Meal Set), “yakishake teishoku” (Grilled Salmon Meal Set). Sachie had high hopes that the diner would become a place where neighbors could easily drop by, enjoy the simple yet tasty food and spend time of their own.

Days passed by, but no one stepped into a shop run solely by a Japanese woman. Sachie, however, showed no sign of impatience. She opened the shop, cleaned the utensils, got ready for a day, closed the door as the sunlight faded, went home, made dinner, and practiced Aikido. Another day is like any other day until she met Midori, a Japanese woman reading Moomin’s book with a difficult face. Then, she got the first customer, a young guy who is a zealous fan of Japanese culture. 

Little by little, connected with other characters through small acts, her shop became more well-known and started to flourish. 

Blue sky and a small eating-house located in a street corner of Helsinki. 

Contented people and their humble dishes.

They are there for each other, for the moment, and the food they love.

“I’m just not doing what I don’t feel like doing”


Solitary Gourmet (孤独のグルメ/Kodoku no Gurume)

solitary gourmet poster
Solitary Gourmet. Source: TV TOKYO

“Freelance”, a familiar term in Japan in recent years but not everyone has the courage to grasp the life it’s attached to – free yet uncertain, independent yet stressful. Loneliness is a thing in Japan, a country in which the living pace is fast-paced. Eating alone, yet, is gradually considered socially accepted in Japan, or else a norm.

Goro Inokashira, a self-employed imported interior good coordinator, spent most of his time going from place to place, working at his own pace and, of course, eating whatever he likes. Thousands of people in Japan are following Goro’s footsteps, loosening up and enjoying their one-person feast without worrying about others’ opinions. 

8 seasons, Goro took the audience from a small Oden shop in Shizuoka to a Bibimbap shop in Seoul, Korea. Order whatever he wants, eat until his stomach couldn’t take it anymore, Goro’s oddity and curiosity with food have been an inspiration for many lone eaters. 

The world that Goro inhabits is not fictitious, compared with today’s life, it feels like a parallel universe. He didn’t have a smartphone; never used Google Maps or read a review on Tabelog. Instead, he strolled along the streets pondering what he wanted to eat before diving into a restaurant by following his own instinct or relying on memory. 

Sat down, studied the menu, and scanned the restaurant in search of human drama, he ordered the one that caught his attention. 

Goro’s take on life, it might be arrogant and rude to give someone/thing your opinion before making an effort to understand. It might be an error, but at least, afterward, we know what we like and do not. 

“Somehow, a new chapter of history has been carved into my stomach.”


Feel hungry already? Make your own meal and binge-watch these beautiful movies on Netflix! Stay tuned for more fun Travel Content like this!