The Tokyo neighborhood of Jinbocho is a favorite of mine. Mostly known for bookshops, it is a bastion of quaintness amid a metropolis that can be downright oppressive at times.

Right at the heart of Jinbocho, a few steps from the local subway station, is Iwanami Hall. It doesn't have much of an impact at street level, but its presence has definitely been felt by the country's film industry. The hall was one of the city's first art-house cinemas and a pioneer in bringing foreign films to Japan beginning in the late-1960s. Next year it will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Movie executives might look at the Iwanami model and run screaming from the room — you won't find any computerized ticket machines, popcorn counters or other modern amenities here. What you will find are gorgeously preserved red-cushioned seats, restrooms that sparkle with cleanliness and a community of film buffs. The staff, all 10 of them, are usually in the vicinity of the hall either taking tickets or standing at the doors engaging in discussions with fellow cinephiles. The fact that the theater still exists is a miracle in this city as capitalist ambitions have destroyed the souls of many other neighborhoods.