Thomas Noah Wood is the pseudonym for the American writer Thomas Dillon, whose name may be familiar to readers of The Japan Times. Dillon wrote about daily life in Japan through the lens of international marriage in “When East Marries West,” a column which ran from 1998 to 2015. Unlike the good-natured humor of his columns, these quirky short stories in “The Keeper of the Dragonflies” veer toward black comedy, although Dillon’s trademark knack for distilling the essence of cross-cultural relationships, romantic or otherwise, is still apparent.
The longtime resident of Japan brings his breadth of experience, warts and all, to explore various facets of life here. International marriage gone awry, a host dad with less than fatherly intentions toward a teenage homestay student, and staffroom politics through the eyes of a young assistant language teacher are just a few of the situations covered.
One standout story is “Just a Date,” which takes the reader on an outing with Hiroko, a Japanese businesswoman weighed down by personal baggage, and Rod, her personable American client. Hiroko spends much of the evening trying to convince herself that, due to cultural differences, things could never work out romantically between them. Yet, there is an undeniable chemistry that leaves her fervently hoping Rod will call after they part ways. As showcased by Thomas in this entertaining collection, the mutual fascination between Japanese and those from abroad never goes out of style.