TOKYO -- The green leather desk chair is faded, and the carpet is a little musty. But nearly four decades after Gen. Douglas MacArthur was called home, the office from which he ruled over the remaking of defeated Japan remains intact, a monument to the chaotic time and often imperious man who still inspires a certain awe among many Japanese.

Dai-Ichi Mutual Life Insurance Co., one of the richest in the world, again occupies the gray building with the imposing pillars that served as general headquarters for the occupation forces from 1945-52. In 1945 Dai-Ichi was given one week to vacate the building. When the company finally returned seven years later, clerks and files moved back into every office, except one -- the sixth-floor room that MacArthur occupied.

"After all, isn't it a kind of historical monument?" Susumu Kaho, Dai-Ichi public relations vice president, said recently. "This room was witness to history." From there, for instance, came orders allowing Japanese workers to unionize for the first time, giving women the vote, purging thousands of ultranationalists and drafting a "no war" constitution that today remains firmly entrenched as the law of the land.

Officially it is known as the Memorial Room, used by Dai-Ichi only for executive board meetings. On other days, the simple office draws regular numbers of visitors eager to sit at the table MacArthur used or peer, as the general did, at the cloisonne dragon vase, the old wood armoire and the peaceful boating scenes on the wall. There have been a few changes: a Toshiba color television and video cassette recorder sit in one corner, presumably for use by the executive board. And a bust of one of Dai-Ichi's founders graces one wall.

But mostly the impression is of a room unchanged by time, missed by the modernity that has swept the rest of downtown Tokyo; even the air has a touch of staleness to it, as if it has lingered for 37 years.

According to Dai-Ichi, about 1,200 people come to see MacArthur's office every year, most of them middle-aged Japanese who lived through those days of intense poverty and hardship and remember MacArthur with respect.

The occupation is widely seen here as a time when militarism was rooted out, the emperor demystified but allowed to remain on his throne and democracy and the underpinnings of today's economic prosperity established.

"Americans regard MacArthur as a conqueror of Japan but the Japanese did not take him that way. He was a liberator. Japanese regarded MacArthur as the highest human being, just below god," said Rinjiro Sodei, a political scientist who has written several books about MacArthur.

His carefully cultivated aloofness and regal bearing, which so irritated his political enemies in the United States, struck the Japanese, with a long history of benevolent but distant military leaders, or shoguns, just right. He shunned all social interactions with the Japanese, meeting only Emperor Hirohito, the prime minister and a handful of other politicians. A driver brought MacArthur to work each day at the Dai-Ichi building and then back home for lunch and dinner, with Japanese policemen halting all traffic to let him pass through the city undisturbed. MacArthur's daily comings-and-goings from the Dai-Ichi building drew throngs, held back a respectful distance by military police.

"He just fit the mold; he was the perfect shogun," said Frank Gibney, who served in the Navy during the early days of the occupation and then covered it for Time magazine.

When President Harry S Truman abruptly fired MacArthur in 1951, in a dispute over the Korean War, the Japanese lined the route to the airport, many holding banners reading, "Goodbye General MacArthur, we still love you."

Dai-Ichi does not advertise the fact that MacArthur's office has been preserved intact and is open to the public. If it did, Kaho said, the building would be swarmed by visitors because of the strong emotional hold that MacArthur still has on many Japanese.

That may change in the future, Kaho acknowledged. "The younger generation, I don't think they know about him," he said.

But for the time being, the visitors still come, and not just from Japan.

Last fall, Dai-Ichi received a letter from an American travel agent saying a group of senior citizens would soon be traveling to Japan and that they would very much like to see MacArthur's office.

When they arrived, it turned out that the group included several men who years before had stood on patrol in front of the Dai-Ichi building as part of the occupation forces.

Then, they were too frightened to consider approaching MacArthur's office, one of the men told Kaho. Forty years later, they carefully tried out the now-worn chair, tapped the desk as if to check its solidity after all these years and gazed out MacArthur's window at the side street below.

"It was history for them, too," Kaho said.