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Nestled in the waters between the giants of Asia, Okinawa has long been considered what journalist Akemi Johnson identifies as a “contact zone,” with a 22,000-year history of intersecting cultures, trade and conflict.

For anyone living in Japan, the complicated tensions between Okinawa, the U.S. and mainland Japan are well-known: Today, 32 American facilities dot the islands and around 50,000 U.S. citizens call Okinawa home. Crimes by servicemen, military accidents, reports of chemical spills or the destruction of natural habitats provide a persuasive foundation to the outcry that Okinawa shoulders too much of the burden of the American military presence in Japan. But, as Johnson reveals in “Night in the American Village,” out this month, this relationship is a complex and shifting one.

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