Following MacArthur's Footsteps: Part II, Daiichi Seimei Building
For Part II of Following MacArthur's Footsteps, let's visit the home for the General Headquarters of the Occupation: the Daiichi Seimei Building. After Japan formally surrendered to the Allied Powers on 2 September 1945, General MacArthur established the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Occupation in downtown Tokyo. It is said that he had two requirements for the Headquarters facility: (1) it had to be close to the Imperial Palace and (2) it had to be climate controlled. Thus, the relatively new Daiichi Seimei building, situated right across the street from the main entrance to the Imperial Palace grounds in the Marunouchi area of Tokyo, became the site for the GHQ from 1945-1952.
MacArthur was deliberately separated from frequent interactions with the Japanese public. The general believed the separation supported his authority as the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers and the head of the Occupation, while not attempting to overstep his mandate in Japan--he wanted Japanese leaders like Emperor Hirohito and later Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida to lead the Japanese in front of the public eye.
As a result, the enterprising Japanese who wanted to catch a glimpse of MacArthur did so by waiting by the entrance of the Daiichi Seimei building. Which they did, in large numbers. Among the most impactful sights was when school children flanked the entrance to sing "Happy Birthday" to MacArthur in 1947.
In 1952, the Occupation ended and the Allied Powers returned the GHQ building to the Daiichi Seimei Life Insurance company. In present day, the Daiichi Seimei building has a much larger annex, but the main building still remains largely the same as it did back in the Occupation-era. In fact, MacArthur's office has been perfectly preserved, and every so often the Daiichi Seimei company will open up the office for public viewing. It does not happen often, but you can check in at http://www.dai-ichi-life.co.jp/english/ to see when it may be opening up.
Even if you cannot visit the office itself, if you visit early in the morning before the rest of Tokyo has awoken and the streets are still quiet, you can follow in MacArthur's footsteps and imagine what it would have been like to be in Tokyo in those uncertain but hopeful days after the war.
The Daiichi Seimei Building is located adjacent to Hibiya Metro Station, about three minutes away from Yurakucho station, or about a ten minute walk away from Tokyo Station.
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Article by Mike B
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