With all the noise strafing us from all sides of the world, a little hush could be quite refreshing. Netflix is a busy street and when I hauled myself into it during the quarantine period, I’d always end up flustered by all the choices. So, I spun the imaginary wheel and discovered Midnight Diner by chance.
I needed a break from my usual mix and (mis)match of British crime series, black comedies, sitcoms, psychological horrors and documentaries. Having no expectations whatsoever, I found myself slowly melting into melancholia — the good, nice, deep, warm and familiar kind.
Set in a rather typical Japanese izakaya, the Midnight Diner offers a totally different experience, a trap that will keep you wanting to sink deeper into the enthralling stories of the oft intertwined lives of the diners. It redefines binge watching because the stories are so well crafted you’d want to take them in slowly and savor every moment of it, like you would your cup of tea.
No, you can’t watch it all day even if you wanted to because you’d need to take breaks to contemplate between stories, and sometimes even between dialogues.
The Midnight Diner is run by Master, and all that we know about him is his name.
Every story begins with the Master opening his shop.
When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it Midnight Diner. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.
5 Lessons I Relearned from Master in Midnight Diner for a Better Life
1. Never rush through life.
Master only has four items on his menu, but he would make anything that his customers would request for if he had the ingredients or if they’d bring them to him.
The first thing he asks is, “Are you in a hurry?”
At the diner, no one is ever in a hurry. You could come in hungry, but you’d have to wait for a freshly cooked meal, then you savor it like it’s the first time you’ve ever tasted it.
It is a glaring comparison to what we normally do in life now. We breeze through the day and do everything in a hurry. People eat breakfast with one foot already out the door, spend less time with the people they love because work is always hovering, and even bring work to bed to beat a deadline. Everywhere you look there’s a traffic light going on.
We forget the value of slowing down. Ironically, the more we hurry to finish a kilometric to-do list, the more we lose valuable time. We don’t often realize it because it’s been part of the norm. We live in a “if you don’t hurry, you worry” mentality.
It won’t hurt to say, “No, I’m not in a hurry” once in every while and just enjoy life’s sweet time.
There is a reason why the term ‘mindfulness’ exists. It helps us hit the breaks so we can make those short stops and look into ourselves and assess our actions if they’re truly helping us reach our life goals.
2. Forgiveness is the key ingredient to a happy life.
People pick on our weaknesses because we let them, whether they’re aware of it or not. These people may not be physically present in our lives anymore, but we still afford them a good space inside our heads. These are the people who have done us wrong, but instead of letting go, we hang on to that feeling of hatred — which unfortunately hurts only us, not them.
Diners come to Meshiya with pockets full of both heartwrenching and funny stories, but some of my favorites would be the ones on forgiving. I realize that we are weighed down by experiences that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.
It’s easier said than done, but nothing else sets a person free than forgiving and letting go.
3. Everything in moderation.
Even if you are in the mood to get inebriated, Master will only serve you up to three drinks.
“This is a diner, not a bar,” he’d remind his customers.
Japanese people are generally known for their healthy diet. Their portion is a fourth of the size of what Filipinos normally eat during each meal. As a Filipino, there’s no escaping a lavish food culture where we eat until we’re too full to move, and we even talk about the next meal while we’re enjoying the current one.
I had to start making a conscious effort to eat until I’m about 80% full or what the Japanese call hara hachi bu. It has not only helped me maintain my ideal weight, it has also helped me gain control of everything else in my life. If you can control your food portions, then you can control everything else.
Automation and technological advances have pushed us to live excessively. We don’t need to leave the house to get everything we need and we don’t need. Shopping and dining in the comforts of our home has never been so convenient…and damaging.
The thing to keep in mind is, just because you can have something does not mean you have to. Living a minimalist life has proven to improve people’s mental state and overall well-being.
Sure, you can manage more than three drinks a night, but no, you don’t really need more than that.
4. You can’t overdose on kindness.
In life, no matter which crossroad we are at, there will always be people who will need us, as well as those we will need to get us through tough times. We may not realize it all the time, but there are challenges that we overcome with ease because families and friends are there to help us slide through.
If you have helped people, you know that the feeling is priceless. If you got help during your lowest point, it is proof that good souls exist and the world is not that all bad. So yes, gratitude counts. It’s scientifically proven to help with mental health, too.
5. Food is a universal language.
If there is one thing that binds us together beyond color, language, smell, race and origin, it’s food. Even during this time of pandemic, people disagree about so many things in so many levels, but never about food.
Food heals, food helps build relationships, food brings people to all sides of the world. Food sometimes even stops conflicts in its tracks.
Food is a language we all speak no matter at what point in our lives we’re in.
Is the Midnight Diner Real?
The set looks as real as it could be, but the diner is set in a studio.
A documentary called Japanology will take you through alleyways in parts of Japan frequented by those who love a more traditional approach to dining. I’ve had the impression that Japanese people mostly keep to themselves, but the documentary revealed otherwise when interviewees said they frequent diners similar to the Midnight Diner because it’s where they strike up random conversations with strangers. Well, apart from the fact, they say that these obscure diners have the best varieties of drinks and food. And, apparently, of people.