Hadn’t been to Kanda-Jimbocho in quite some time, perhaps 9 or so months (that long?), but went there the other week to look for a book for an overseas customer. I ended up buying it from someone online but it was still nice to go to “book town” and wander around. Kanda-Jimbocho was my favorite place from my first trip to Tokyo in 1997 so it’s a place that brings back memories.

Anyway, I was in search of a Tenya (a cheap tempura chain) which I had been to once before, but it was nowhere to be found. Instead, I ran into this rather startling site — the Jimbocho Theater, which is owned by the publishing house Shogakukan (“Magazine and book publication, etc., including 66 magazines, 9,000 books, 13,200 comics, 850 mooks and 5,000 videos and DVDs (as of 2006)”) according to their English website. jimbocho_theater2Apparently it opened in 2007, though hell if I knew.

Of course, this being Tokyo, right opposite on one side was this scene of corrugated tin and vending machines. You win some, you lose some.

On view at the moment is a season of old Japanese films called 日本文芸散歩 (nihon bungei sanpo, or literally, “Japan Literary Walk”). Looking over the films listed on the theater’s site, the movies date from between 1939 (the biopic 樋口一葉 (higuchi ichiyou) about the Meiji-era novelist Ichiyou Higuchi) to 1986 (Kinji Fukasaku’s 火宅の人 (Kataku no hito, “House on Fire”)), and are jimbocho_posterdivided into four thematic groupings like “Writers in the Landscape” and “Student’s Tokyo”. Some of the directors featured, besides Fukasaku, include Kon Ichikawa, Yasuzo Masumura, and Nagisa Oshima. Looking down the list of films and film stills brings back many a fond art-house memory, and a regret my Japanese is still not at a point where I could truly appreciate these.

Lead architect for the theater building was Nikken Sekkei. The exterior was supplied by Takahashi Kogyo, a company with roots in the shipbuilding industry (read this inspiring interview with the founder, a 7th-generation shipbuilder). World Buildings Directory has more background and information about the building. And lots more photos at Got Arch?

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