GHQ Dai Ichi

From August, 28 1945 to April 28, 1952, Japan was not a sovereign nation; instead it was occupied by the Allied nations of the Second World War. And the Allies base of operations during the occupation was an imposing building in its time – The Dai-Ichi Insurance Building. While much of Tokyo was destroyed by American firebombing, the Imperial Palace and the central part of Tokyo were not targeted, perhaps to spare the Emperor, perhaps to leave a habitable space for a conquering military administration.

The General Arrives at Dai Ichi Building SCAP HQ
General Douglas MacArthur entering SCAP HQ, the Dai Ichi Building

Completed in 1933, across the moat of the Imperial Palace, it must have been an impressive sight. One of the largest structures in the area at the time, GHQ’s home was a solid stone block of a building with its six-story columns, the American flag flapping from the top, clearly visible from the Imperial Palace. In this building worked the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), American commander, General Douglas MacArthur.

As wrote Russell Brines, the war correspondent and author of the 1948 book, MacArthur’s Japan, the general commanded respect.

In Tokyo, his personal and legal authority was unquestioned. His headquarters was dominated by military men, accustomed to unquestioning obedience. They echoed his moods, repeated his propaganda, tried to anticipate his wishes. His personality constantly hovered over the ornate Dai Ichi Insurance Company, and other modern buildings, where policy was made in the capital. Civilian officials who disagreed remained discreetly silent.

GHQ Presidential Office MacArthur's office
General MacArthur’s office

MacArthur’s office on the sixth floor of the Dai Ichi Insurance Building was surprisingly spartan. His desk was more like a dining table, without drawers, his table often without papers or reports. As a Dai Ichi spokesman said in explanation of the lack drawers,

MacArthur didn’t need any. He was a man who made quick decisions, not the type to pull reports out of his bureau for lengthy consideration.

MacArthur had long days in GHQ. They started around 10 am in the morning. He would then go to his residence in the American Embassy compound around 2:30 pm and return around to GHQ around 4:30. He would then continue his work until about 8:30 pm, a pattern that E. H. Freeman in this discussion board called Armchair General.com said the general did 7 days a week.

GHQ_1
Dai Ichi Building today

MacArthur was as close to a super hero as you can get in those days. Japanese and Americans alike would try to time his arrivals and departures from GHQ to catch a glimpse of him passing through the columns of the Dai Ichi Insurance Building – the Japanese bowing and the GI’s saluting. Bill Zettler wrote about his moment with the man on the discussion board:

In the fall of 1946 I was standing near the front entrance to the Dai Ichi building, camera in hand, hoping to see Mac as he came to work. I did not realize he would use the door behind me. I felt that photographing him at that distance would be impertinent, and so I stepped aside, held the camera behind me, and saluted. He returned that salute, and then I realized I was the only GI in his view, so I had received a PERSONAL salute from the General.

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Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 3

These are fascinating pictures of Emperor Hirohito and the Empress in the summer of 1964. Taken from the September 11, 1964 issue of Life Magazine, these black and white photos reveal the Emperor to be a somewhat ordinary man, grandfatherly, academic. In fact, the couple looks like they’re having fun looking for mollusks.

The magazine even quotes the Emperor describing the “umi ushi” they found. “This is an easygoing chap, not in the least alarmed at being caught.”

Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 1

Americans who saw this set of pictures in Life Magazine were probably surprised to see a totally different Emperor Hirohito. Perhaps their memory of him was a leader who sent suicide dive bombers to attack Pearl Harbor, or drove soldiers to kill themselves in the name of the Emperor rather than be captured by Allied forces. But to see the Emperor at all in the 1960s was due to efforts by the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers (SCAP), the entity that governed Japan in the post-war years, as well as members of the Japanese government.

After World War II, in the immediate aftermath of Japan’s defeat at the hands of overwhelming American military firepower, one would think there would be too much concern over what to eat, where to sleep, and how they will cope the next day for people to care about the Emperor, and whether the imperial family as an institution should be maintained.

And yet, support for continuing the imperial throne was strong, a survey in October, 1945 revealing “widespread enthusiasm or deep awe and veneration comparable to that of the war years,” according to John Dower in his seminal book, Embracing Defeat. While forceful calls for the dethronement of Emperor Hirohito and elimination of the imperial system in Japan were common in America and other allied nations, the head of SCAP, General Douglas MacArthur, agreed that it was important to keep the emperor in place.

Life Magazine_Emperor and Empress 2

Dower quoted a memo from Brigadier General Bonner Fellers to MacArthur about the reasons why the Emperor should remain as a symbol of Japan, emphasizing the fact that the Emperor, by going on the radio and announcing Japan’s defeat and need to lay down arms, “hundreds of thousands of American casualties were avoided and the war terminated far ahead of schedule.” in the case of trying the Emperor for war crimes, Fellers argued that “the governmental structure would collapse and a general uprising would be inevitable.”

SCAP was therefore insistent that Hirohito remain as Emperor, and not be tried for war crimes. In place of a deity as the head of Japan, SCAP sought to “humanize” the Emperor. A big part of those efforts were sending the Emperor on tours across the nation to meet the people in 1946. SCAP made sure pictures were taken and film was shot to document the Emperor walking amidst his people, a scenario unthinkable during and before the war years.

Life Magazine_Then Crown Prince Akihito Crown Princess Michiko and Current Crown Prince
Then Crown Prince Akihito Crown Princess Michiko and Current Crown Prince
Yukijirushi butter ad_Asahai Graf Tokyo Olympics Special Issue_November 1964
An ad for butter and cheese by the dairy company, Yuki Jirushi. From the November 1964 Asahi Graf, Tokyo Olympics Special Edition

A derogatory term in Japan for foreigners at the turn of the 20th century was “batta-kusai” (バタ臭い), literally “stinks of butter”.

In the 16th and 17th centuries in Japan, when the Portuguese and Dutch established relations and trade with the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Japanese were exposed to non-Japanese who had meat and milk in their diets. The Japanese, due to the influence of Buddhism and Shintoism, were forbidden from eating meat, and thus by extension, dairy products. On top of that, Japanese were generally lactose intolerant.

Because of the fundamental differences in diet, the Japanese thought, quite simply, that Westerners, with the residue of beef, milk and cheese in their systems, reeked.

Milking at a small farm in Japan 1933_Mainichi Photo Gallery
Milking at a small farm in Japan in 1933_Mainichi Photo Gallery

But when Emperor Meiji came to power in the late 19th Century, the emperor and his government embarked the country on a massive modernization campaign to make not only the Japanese military, science and industry equal to the levels of excellence in the Western industrialized world, but also the size and strength of Japanese people.

According to this article, the Meiji Government not only lifted the ban on meat and dairy-products consumption, they put the word out, quietly, that the Meiji Emperor also enjoyed meat, cheese and milk.

Jersey cows arrive to Japan from New Zealand 1953_Mainichi Photo Gallery
Jersey Cows arrive from New Zealand to a farm in Japan in 1953, from the Mainichi Photo Gallery

Clearly, the Meiji Government was also picking up advanced marketing techniques, such as celebrity endorsements to sell products. But when the 1960s rolled around, using data to back your claims was all the rage. The advertisement at the top of the page was published in November, 1964 in Asahi Graf’s Tokyo Olympics Special Issue. The headline text states, “These Children Will be the Strength of Japan in the Future”. The company making this statement is “Yuki-Jirushi”, one of the dairy products companies (along with Meiji) established by the Emperor Meiji.

The statistics shared in the ad show how, from 1955 to 1962, the height of the average 5-year old went from 104 to 106.1 cm tall while the average individual daily consumption of dairy products (I suppose they mean butter and cheese) went from 0.8 grams to 5.4 grams.

Distirbution of Milk Containers 1955_Mainichi Photo Gallery
Distribution of milk containers in Japan in 1955, from the Mainichi Photo Gallery

A few years later, an AP article from May, 1969 cited a government survey indicating the trend was continuing. “A ministry survey showed the average height of 11-year-old boys has increased by 4.6 inches over the past 68 years. Girls of the same age had an increase of 5.4 inches. During the 1900-1968 period, the 11-year-old boys gained 13.6 pounds and the girls 18.9 pounds in weight, the survey said.”

The article went on to explain that the Allied Occupation under the