Tom Hurley dove into the embassy pool, slipping into the hush and cool of the water. On the other side of the world, it was day 226 of the Iran hostage crisis, but here in Tokyo, on June 17, 1980, it was placid, quiet, and, at six in the morning, already hot and a little sticky. Tom was a week into his tour to Japan as a Junior Foreign Service Officer, and he had yet to adjust to the time change. Antsy and wired, he had taken to swimming laps in the early hours before work.

The pool was directly behind the Grew House, the largest of the three low-rise apartment buildings on the American Embassy housing compound, all of them drab concrete-and-steel structures, designed when stripped-down industrial functionality was a desired aesthetic. Tokyo itself wasn’t any prettier. Indeed, given the refinement and delicacy of the Japanese culture, the general ugliness of the city surprised Tom, offices and stores and houses jammed haphazardly into every available inch of space. No, what distinguished the compound, which sat on a hill near Roping, within walking distance of the embassy, was its size, its expanse, twelve full acres of wide, green sweeps of lawns and trees, the pool and tennis courts and parking lots, everything so big, an excess that the Japanese must have found typically arrogant, the way Americans always seemed to spread out and take more room than was necessary.

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