True lovers of food don’t only savor every bite of their meals and appreciate beautiful presentation, they’ll fill their time between lunch and dinner with gourmet entertainment. This might include scrolling through Instagram’s endless pit of baking videos or indulging in a marathon of cooking shows. If competition isn’t your thing, but you’d like to know how to cook the perfect omurice, then you’ll love these five Japanese TV shows.
Kaori Shoji of The Japan Times defined the gourmet genre best: “Sure, many countries have food shows, but Japan has set the bar particularly high. They don’t just teach you how to cook, they teach you how to savor. The cooking shots are in slow motion and close up, there’s a soft focus on the preparation, and the act of eating is climactic.”
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
Before diving into regional and local variations (and we know Japan is full of those), get your basics right with Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. From fast-food to traditional, the show covers every typical Japanese dish you will certainly encounter during your stay in the Land of the Rising Sun. Stay tuned until the very end to get the recipe and try replicating them at home. This show isn’t just about food, it’s also about the relationship Japanese people have developed with it, and how it is often comforting in the intimate setting of the quaint Japanese eateries. Every episode presents a customer favorite and the more you watch, the more inside jokes and references there will be, making the viewer feel like they, too, are part of the gang. And if you’re studying Japanese, this made the cut as one of our top Japan Netflix shows to assist your efforts.
Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
Now that we’ve covered the savory half of Japanese cuisine, let’s follow up with dessert. Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman is a comedy and parody, inspired by the likes of Kodoku no Gourmet (more on that one later). Following the story of Kantaro, who gave up a prestigious job to become a salesman in a publishing company, see how he manages to visit some of Tokyo’s famous traditional dessert shops between clients to post elaborate reviews on his sweets blog. The exaggerated scenes of delight when he takes his first bite of anmitsu or parfait are laugh-out-loud funny.
This one is for the sake lovers. Both an animated and live action series, Wakako Zake is a great show if you want to know more about the traditional Japanese spirit, and the meals that compliment it. Watch as Wakako Murasaki pairs her meals with a little glass of nihonshu before releasing a pshuuu in satisfaction, letting all her stress and worries go. Not only does this show check the “food” box, but the “travel” one too. Unwind after a long day at work by watching the main character wander through Tokyo’s alleys and hop from one restaurant to another, enjoying her meals in content solitude.
Learn more about Japanese sake through popular podcasts and other sources here.
Kodoku no Gurume
Arguably the originator of the gourmet genre, Kodoku no Gurume takes you on a private tour of Tokyo and its suburbs, visiting local restaurants (which have their own dedicated website). The series has been going on for a whopping seven years and has its own movie and the occasional special here and there. This is purest form of gourmet television, where viewers lay their eyes on episodes consisting solely of the main character eating (yes, the entire half-hour), filmed ever so simply to really make the food the star of the show.
Samurai Gourmet is very much like Wakako Zake and Kodoku no Gurume, only the main character, Takeshi Kasumi, is a recently-retired salaryman. Still adapting to his newly open calendar, he finds comfort and contentment in food and breaks out of his shell with the help of his fantastical samurai friend. Encouraged to explore new flavors and possibilities (like drinking beer at noon), this show is a unique twist on your average life-altering-transition story, showing what can happen after the long years of hard labor. Like us, gastronomy is ever-changing and there are new combinations being created every day.