Japan’s MacArthur’s Office Publicly Shown

TOKYO (AFP) - For six years US General Douglas MacArthur was lord of all he surveyed as supreme commander of the Allied forces in occupied Japan, gazing over Tokyo from a building requisitioned from an insurance company. Now, more than 60 years after Japan began governing itself again, his office is being opened to the public, just as he left it.

The sixth-floor room has the original seats, desk, and even an armchair where MacArthur would have sat as he presided over Japan's rise from the ashes of World War II. From the office, MacArthur oversaw the transformation of a country that waged a brutal war of acquisition across Asia into a peaceable nation that would become the economic powerhouse of the late 20th century.

And it was from the bureau that he ordered the re-writing of Japan's constitution, in the process stripping the emperor -- in whose name that war was waged -- of his divine status and casting him as a figurehead in a democratic nation. The room was the nerve centre for land reform, voting enfranchisement, and changes to laws about education, labour rights, public health and women's issues.

Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Company, whose chief executive vacated the space when MacArthur moved in, kept the office as it was when their enforced guest left as US attention shifted to the Korean peninsula.

The company is now planning to open it up for public viewing for a week from Tuesday, keenly aware that many Japanese people have no understanding of the significant role the place played in post-war history.

''I did not know that the office was occupied by Mr MacArthur before I was hired,'' a young company spokesman confessed to AFP during a tour. ''But all of us... learned about this place when we arrived,'' he added.

The wood-panelled room, with its large windows and translucent curtains, offers a glimpse into history and MacArthur's driven work style: the desk has no drawers so he could not let papers pile up. The office overlooks the vast Imperial Palace where Emperor Hirohito lived in luxury in the heart of Tokyo, an area that had been spared the Allied bombs of the aerial campaign.

As well as the fact that the building was intact, the site's choice would have owed much to the occupiers' understanding of the importance of symbolism in Japan -- something that finds no better expression than a widely-distributed picture of MacArthur standing beside the emperor.

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