The business hours are from midnight to around 7 in the morning. The people call it "The Late Night Diner". The diner only has five items on the menu: pork miso soup set meal, beer, sake, and sochu. Alcoholic drinks are limited to three servings per customer. Other dishes are available on request. If the diner owner has the ingredients, he will cook the requested dish.
1st Night: Red Weenies
The first story is about Ryuu Chan comes to the diner which reminds the diner owner about their first encounter after the diner just opened. Ryuu Chan's friend came and ordered escargot and bird's nest soup which are not available in the diner. Then, Ryuu Chan ordered red weenies. The diner owner cooked it in "octopus style". Since then, Ryuu Chan becomes the diner's regular customer.
When Ryuu Chan ordered a large sauteed red weenies, Kosuzu-san breaks the silence as the red weenies look delicious. Kosuzu-san runs a local gay bar just up the street for 48 years. Ryuu Chan offers him to try one of the red weenies. Kosuzu-san likes the nostalgic flavour of the dish. Ryuu Chan offers another to him. In exchange, he offers his tamagoyaki to Ryuu Chan. From then onwards, both of them share their food and sometimes, one of them will order the food and wait for the other one to come to the diner. The diner owner offers to cook extra for them, but they feel the taste is better when they share their food.
One night, there was news about a shooting incident happened, and it was reported that one of the casualties are Ryuu Chan. Fortunately, Ryuu Chan only sustained severe injuries and needed to be hospitalised for quite some time. Kosuzu-san requests the diner owner to make a "get well bento" which consists of red weenies and tamagoyaki. Kosuzu-san visits Ryuu Chan in the hospital while eating the "get well bento" together.
2nd Night: Yesterday's Curry
The diner owner likes the taste of curry that has been left overnight instead of fresh one. The solidified curry will get soften when it serves on some warm rice. When his customers see his meal, they want to try the curry as well. A couple of customers want to order the curry, but there isn't any more left for them. As a result, the first Tuesday of each month will be "Yesterday's Curry Day". The serving curry is a home-style curry with a mixture of some vegetables.
Unfortunately, not everyone likes it. There was a customer who hates carrot, but the diner owner assures him that the carrot has already finely diced. Meanwhile, another lady in sexy dress loves the curry. When another regular customer wants to order for the dish, the curry has already finished. The lady feels terrible and apologises to him for finishing the curry. Since then, the pair often comes to the diner for Yesterday's Curry and their relationship is growing as well.
Jin-san is 61 years old, and Erika is 21. They started living together two months ago. Erika tells the diner owner that Jin-san is sending emails to his previous wife who he has been hiding from her. She begins her story with the night while returning from the diner and after drinking too much, they went to the hotel. Jin-san barely touches her, and she wondered whether it's because she is working in the sex industry, but the next day, Jin-san told her that she is more wonderful on the next day, just like the curry. Then, Jin-san came at the break of dawn, and they left hand in hand.
3rd Night: Nekomanma
Around 6.30 in the morning, a lady came and asked for katsuobushi on top of warm rice with a drizzle of soy sauce. The diner owner calls it 'nekomanma'. He didn't mind to cook for her after the lady told him that she doesn't have any money. Coincidentally, he wanted to eat the same food as well. The lady loved the food, and since then, she comes frequently and always at the same time.
One day, the diner owner asked her why she always so late. She told her that she is an unknown enka singer. She likes to sing. She spent the whole night singing the songs of others at the karaoke box. The diner owner offered to stick her poster (if she has any) on the diner and also tried to sell some of her CDs.
When the customers saw the poster, they asked the diner owner about her (Chidori Miyuki), and they interested in listening to her singing before they decide whether to buy the CD. So, the diner owner made an arrangement for her performance. Everyone was deeply moved by her singing. One of the customers who is a songwriter was inspired by her song and wrote a song 'mayoi neko' (stray cat) to her.
The song is getting popular and started to climb up the charts, but she suddenly vanished without a trace. The last time she visited the diner was almost a month before she passed away. Then, a guy came and told the diner owner that she said she had slipped out of the hospital to come to the diner, but she couldn't even finish half of her beloved nekomanma. The newspaper reported the news of late Chidori Miyuki's song 'Mayoi Neko' has sold more than 1 million copies. All these reminded the diner owner about a miracle happened in that morning. Around 6.30 in that morning, a stray cat came to the diner. The diner owner placed a bowl of nekomanma, and the stray cat happily finished the food. Perhaps it was her.
4th Night: Soya Sauce and Worcestershire Sauce
Two customers ordered sunny side up eggs. Both love the yolk the most and the second favourite part is the crispy edges of the egg white. However, when it comes to sauce, one prefers soya sauce, but the other one prefers Worcestershire sauce. The sauce preference is equally divided among the customers in the diner.
A few days later, they ordered the same dish, deep-fried horse mackerel (Aji Furai). The difference of their sauce preference also equally divided again in the diner. Then, a lady came and ordered the same dish. The deciding vote will be on her, but she chooses ketchup and mayonnaise.
After that, the two customers have disappeared. The lady came and told the diner owner that they were active cat burglars and already arrested by the police. Their methods were so alike which misled the police to believe that the criminal was the same person. Both of them have the same age, blood type, and even living in apartments with virtually identical floor plans. The only difference that they had was the toilet.
5th Night: Stewed Beef Tendon and Daikon with Eggs
The scent of oden which only consists of three ingredients: beef tendon, daikon and eggs have attracted an overweight lady, Mayumi-chan to come to the diner. She will have two or three servings and also together with beer and sake. Whenever she comes, the diner owner has to cook an extra batch of rice.
One day, she told the diner owner to let her eat as much as she wants because she is on a diet from tomorrow onwards. She needs to lose her weight based on her doctor's advice. The following day onwards, she pushed herself with intensive workout and also limit herself with healthy food.
When other customers thought she won't be coming to the diner anymore, she appeared and ordered an oden. She told the diner owner that this is a relapse due to her stress is building up when she is dieting. She ordered the third serving and repeats the same promise. She will be on a diet again tomorrow and begged the diner owner to let her eat as much as she wants. The diner owner was speechless with her repetitive action.
6th Night: Natto
Natto is a fermented soybean dish. A lady came and ordered special natto without tare. Then, another male customer asked her why she doesn't want to eat the natto with tare. She replied to him that she doesn't like the sweetness and prefers to eat natto with soya sauce. After the lady left the diner, he admits that it was love at first sight and the diner owner revealed that she is beautiful and doesn't look like a man at all.
After the diner owner revealed the place where the lady is working as a transsexual performer, the guy (Yoshida) frequently visiting her workplace. They are so madly in love since then. Then in spring, Yoshida looked exhausting and appeared in the diner every night, ordering natto special. As a result, he does lose weight after eating natto every day.
7th Night: Yakinori
Yakinori is a toasted seaweed. Miyamotsu-chan loves to eat rice with just nori alone, and he can eat three bowls of rice only with yakinori. According to him, nori is good for hair. He is proud of his daughter and showed the photo of his daughter with beautiful hair just because she eats nori every day. Then, he criticised that young girls nowadays have their hairs dyed to different colours.
Miyamotsu-chan didn't come to the diner for quite some time. His buddy told the diner owner that his daughter has gone a bit astray. She dyed her hair blonde, no eyebrows and became distant from her family. Two months later, Miyamotsu-chan came and told the diner owner that his daughter is living with another man. She is just seventeen years old and pregnant now. He remembers how cute was his daughter when she was a kid and loves to eat tarako (pollock roe). Then, he asked the diner owner to make a tarako filled with onigiri. He went to his daughter's house and left the tarako at the door. When the daughter came back with her partner, she saw the tarako, and she knew it was from her father.
When spring arrived, Miyamotsu-chan came and ordered an extra large of nori. He showed the photo of his daughter with her son. He is so proud of his grandson's lush hair and continues bragging about it.
8th Night: Tarako
After a long time, Marilyn came back to Shinjuku. Despite her age, she is still a very popular stripper. One of her weaknesses is she falls in love easily, and whenever she falls in love, she will adopt the man's habit. She ordered a medium-rare tarako and since then, other customers also ordering the same thing as well.
One day, she ordered a rare tarako. The diner owner knew that she broke up again, but she still enjoys eating tarako. Marilyn told him the story of the first man that she loved during high school whose lips looked like tarako. Then one night, during her performance, she recognised one of the audiences is her first love, and they got married after that.
After quite some time, Marilyn appeared and ordered a shochu on the rocks with a side order, anything except tarako. She told them that the man that she married is a mummy's boy and has a horrible mother. The entire family has tarako lips, and she can't eat tarako for a whole year.
However, she quickly soon forgotten the incident and promptly fall in love again. The diner owner assumed that her recent lover is a Korean since she ordered a kimchi dish.
9th Night: Katsudon
Kacchan is a boxer. Every time when he wins a match, he will come to the diner and order a katsudon. Katsudon is a large bowl of rice topped with a breaded and fried pork cutlet. Akemi works at a hostess club and occasionally brings her daughter, Mayu to the diner after picking her up from the daycare.
In katsudon, "katsu" means "cutlet" but it also sounds like the verb "to win". Eating katsudon is like eating a bowl of victory for Kacchan. After knowing that Akemi and the daughter came and ordered a katsudon when he won one of the matches, Kacchan is overjoyed and invited them to watch his match at Korakuen Hall. Their relationship has been growing since then.
There is a big match scheduled for him, and he intends to propose to Akemi if he wins. After the match, he retired. The diner owner wants to treat him a katsudon, but he prefers to have oyakodon instead. Oyakadon is a donburi topped with a simmered mixture of chicken and eggs. Hence it is called "oyako" which means "parent and child".
10th Night: Napolitan
The diner rarely visited by foreigners but Hoshizaki-san brings a foreign man to the diner today. The worst is he ordered napolitan. Napolitan is a pasta dish based on tomato sauce. The foreign man came from Napoli, Italy and his name is Furio. Whenever Hoshizaki-san got drunk, he will hit it off with anyone and often brings the person to the diner. Although Furio is an Italian, he has never tried Napolitan before. Hoshizaki-san felt ironic about it, but Kosuzu-san told him that Napolitan only exists in Japan which originated during the post-war period.
After Furio tasted the dish, he is speechless. However, the following day, he came to the diner and ordered a Napolitan. It wasn't a great dish, but he has a liking for the unique taste. Another customer, Enchuu-shishou shares the same interest as Furio and instantly became friends and went to watch rakugo performance. Furio later became his apprentice. However, as time passed by, his mother and his sister came to drag him back to Italy after he told them that he wants to become a rakugoka. He frequently appears on TV back in Italy and performs rakugo.
11th Night: Potato Salad
Recently, a man often comes to the diner and ordered a potato salad. One of the customers recognised him as 'Erect Ooki-san'. Erect Ooki is a legendary charismatic AV actor. The customer begged Ooki-san to accept him as his apprentice.
Two months later, the guy has become Ooki-san's apprentice. Ooki-san ordered a potato salad for himself and a stamina meal for the apprentice. The next day will be his debut appearance. Then, he received a call about his mother has a mild stroke. He hesitated to return home, but after his master strongly insists him to do so, the guy returns to see his mother.
It reminds him that twenty years ago, his mother asked him to leave. He never returns home because everyone in the family is a teacher and he is too ashamed of himself. Two weeks later, the apprentice came and told that Ooki-san went back to his hometown the day before yesterday. At that time, Ooki-san appeared, telling them that his mother has lost her memory. With the help of his sister, the mother made some potato salad for him which she remembers that her son loves to eat potato salad. Everyone was in tears when Ooki-san told them that the potato salad was very salty.
12th Night" Nukazuke Cucumber
Nukazuke cucumber is pickled cucumber which is best to eat with a beer drink during summer. Ryouma Fujisaki, a women's pro-wrestling champion likes to eat the cucumber without slicing it. She is 32 years old and met her boyfriend when she saved him from being bullied by punks. Her boyfriend is 21 years old. They live together, and she became more feminine when she was in love.
After celebrating the boyfriend's debut, there wasn't any news about them for six months. Then, they appeared at the diner and broke the news that they will get married soon. She gave birth to a baby girl after that. One year later, the husband got beaten by her when she caught him cheating. Due to the fight, she made a return to the ring and became renowned for her fierce technique.
13th Night: Watermelon
All the regular customers were enjoying watermelon at the diner during summer time. After sharing their nostalgic stories about their summer experience, suddenly a blackout occurred at the diner.
The diner owner lighted the candles, and Miyamotsu-chan suggested that would be the perfect time for ghost stories. Shishio began the story which happened 40 years ago in the middle of the summer. His friend and his housemate went to a watermelon patch, and each stole a watermelon. Then, suddenly a train appeared. When the friend woke up, he found himself beside the tracks. He called out to his housemate, but there wasn't a response. So, he went back to the apartment by himself. When he was about to wash the watermelon, he caught a glimpse of the watermelon, and it was actually the bloody head of his friend.
At that moment, a lady came to the diner with watermelon and Ryuu Chan was freaked out. Since then, Ryuu Chan is unable to eat watermelon anymore.
14th Night: Night Ramen
Sachiko came to the diner with her boyfriend, Shun. She put some money into her boyfriend's pocket before he left the diner. Then, Yuki-chan who is a famous fortune teller came and ordered miso ramen. Sachiko ordered a charumera. After Sachiko left, Yuki-chan told the diner owner that she felt pity of Sachiko as she felt an aura of sorrow was being emitted throughout her body. According to her, a woman who is so accustomed to ramen at late night must be having a miserable life.
From then on, Sachiko often comes to the diner after her work at the cabaret club. When she received a call from her boyfriend, she was so happy and quickly left the diner. Yuki-chan feels Sachiko is going further into misery.
One month later, Sachiko was thinking whether she should give birth to her child. Her boyfriend has disappeared due to his debts, and she doesn't know whether he will come back. Yuki-chan feels she is like the spitting image of herself. After a detailed conversation exchanged between the two women, they never went to the shop anymore. There was a rumour that when Yuki-chan was 18 years old, she was abandoned by a man and she sent her child to a foster home. Sachiko's boyfriend is her son, and coincidentally, it means that they are mother and daughter-in-law. Then, they appeared on the diner with a baby, and they are living together now as mother and daughter-in-law.
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Shinya Shokudo 1.