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Why People Binge Watch Japanese Gourmet Dramas

Have you ever heard of Midnight Diner? It is a Japanese TV series that portrays a group of people who routinely eat at midnight diner called Shinya Shokudo.

Gourmet TV drama has been one of the most popular genres in Japan. A common scene in this type of genre is usually the diners taking a bit of food, then they pause for a while, and exclaim, “Oishii (Delicious)!” Albeit in film and TV dramas with other themes, food still plays a significant role throughout the story plot. Thus, why are the Japanese so keen on making gourmet dramas, and why do we like to watch or even binge-watch food dramas?

Japanese-Style Hospitality

There are two terms that could define Japanese culture. One is 'monozukuri,' referring to Japanese manufacturing practices, and the other is 'omotenashi,' meaning Japanese-style hospitality.

In Japanese TV dramas, the most common way to show their hospitality is by the mean of portraying their food culture. Thus, food culture has always been a way for the Japanese to express themselves; in other words, if you approve of a meal, it means you approve of this person.

Obsession with Cooking Contests

It has been pretty common to see culinary showdowns in Japanese films and TV dramas. This type of plot originated from one of Japan's most popular variety shows, Iron Chef.

The contest system and rules are very simple. The challenger and the resident chef respectively spend 1 hour preparing for a dish, and the final judge will announce the winner. Regardless of exaggerated costumes, dazzling lights, and super-burning commentary, the fierce dual atmosphere makes people seemingly feel an illusion of watching a game.

One famous Japanese anime called Cooking Master Boy integrates a large number of Kungfu elements and even turns the kitchen into a battlefield where characters have to find eight supernatural legendary kitchen appliances and dark forces to control the world.

In fact, cooking competitions have a long history in Japan since the early 1970s. A couple of years ago, Japanese anime had introduced a form of “food plus oral commentary," which was later adopted in a deluge of gourmet anime. The Japanese are so obsessed with cooking competitions that even a simple bowl of egg custard requires a lot of hard work to stand out. Their spirit of cooking practices starts extending to other professions, and the truth will remain the same.

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The Appeal of Being Alone

Japanese gourmet dramas are often broadcast late at night when people are most sensitive and vulnerable. At this time, you may desperately need an object or person to express your bewilderment. Apart from sex, this object is none other than food. Eating alone can sometimes change your mind and even catalyze the memory of forgetting the troubles and hardship of life. This kind of undisturbed loneliness usually makes people feel that the taste of the food lies not only in its ingredients but also in people’s minds. Combining deliciousness and human affection would save us at night 

In any case, when having an increasingly alienated urban life, food acts as a placebo for your life and the dining table becomes a church of the soul. This is the spiritual message that gourmet TV shows and dramas aim to bring to you. Just like the monologue in Midnight Diner, people are rushing home in a hurry when the day has gone, while some people believe that their hunger is an unsatisfying state that needs to be fixed. If you’re the one who also needs spiritual sustenance at night, find a quiet place, sit down, and try to run your own “midnight diner."

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Yolanda is now majoring in Communication and Cinema&Digital Media at UC Davis. She usually works as an amateur photographer focusing on portrait, landscape, humanity and international cuisine. She hopes to use the power of photographs and writing to inspire and educate peers and spread more positivity.
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