Cover for Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance, designed by Scott Beaty.
Illustration of a can of instant Japanese konbucha (kelp tea) that’s been sitting on my desk for six years. Occasionally, I make a cup. Still tastes like the sea…
A man holds a sweaty glass of Scotch in a jittery hand.
He’s asked his family to leave the room so he can have some time alone with the abstract American oil he paid five million dollars for that afternoon. The tears begin slowly.
"I can feel you here with me, Jackson," he says to the canvas.
* * *
In a cramped garage in Queens, New York, Pei-Shen Quan is cleaning his brushes.
Kodoku no Gurume is a television show that could only be made in Japan. A horribly clichéd statement, you say? Yessir. But in this case, it’s fitting.
If we’re to judge by its original airtime — Wednesdays at 12:43am — it seems as if it was just barely made at all. Add to that a near speechless protagonist and all but the wispiest of plots and you’re not exactly riding hard into ratings country. In it’s homeland, though, it’s a hit.
What’s it about? A fifties-ish importer of luxury European goods named Goro Inogashira (played by Matsushige Yutaka) who lives to eat solo at unpretentious eateries in and around Tokyo. His interior monologue is sparse but perfectly written, and even after spending hours with Goro we learn almost nothing about his past — but enough about his character to want to pull up a stool alongside him at a yakitori stand and buy him a cold oolong tea (Goro can’t hold his booze).
A typical episode sees our solitary gourmet meeting a client, finding himself hungry, looking for a suitable place to eat, and — don’t get ahead of me, now — eating.
Is it the utter simplicity of Kodoku no Gurume that’s kept me watching after three seasons? That and the food. And the neighbourhoods. And Goro, of course.
Would such a low-key loveletter to hardworking mom and pop restaurants ever fly in our TopMasterChopped-loving “foodie” TV culture? I think not. Too real. The closest we’ve got? Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives? Jesus.
The show’s manifesto is summed up pretty nicely in the voice-over during the opening credits:
“Regardless of time and society, when someone indulges in satisfying his hunger he will become selfish and liberated for a moment. Without being disturbed by anyone, to eat freely is an act of aloofness. This act is the best comfort given equally to every man.”
The best part? It’s based on a comic book.