In 1962, the year Robert Whiting arrived in Japan as a 19-year-old soldier from small-town America, the United States was at the peak of its economic power. Under the leadership of John F. Kennedy, the nation had embarked on a quest to put a man on the moon and its Peace Corps volunteer aid program was dispatching idealistic young Americans abroad to help countries in need.

Meanwhile, the Japan in which Whiting found himself was still struggling to recover from defeat in World War II, and Tokyo was tearing itself apart and putting itself back together in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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