lifestyle

Is it time for Japan to get over trying to connect your personality and blood type?

20 Comments
By Casey Baseel

When I first moved to Japan in college, every weekend meant a party and a new group of people to meet, with a standard set of questions I got asked. The logic behind “What’s your name?” was obvious, and “Where are you from?” also makes sense when you’re one of the few non-Japanese people in the room. “Do you like Japanese girls?” was another common one, based on the widely held, if not always true, theory that foreign guys like Japanese women, and vice-versa.

Those three always came first, but it wasn’t long until someone would want to know my blood type. No, my school wasn’t filled with vampires or hemophiliacs, nor hemophiliac vampires (the most tragic undead demographic). People just wanted to get a sneak peak of my personality, which is thought to be strongly connected to what runs through your veins by many people in Japan.

One man who’s not a believer, though, is Professor Kengo Nawata from Kyushu University’s Social Psychology Department, whose recently concluded research shows no correlation between personality and blood type.

Let’s start with a quick primer on blood type personality theories. In simple terms, Type As are thought to be earnest and considerate, Type Bs passionate yet self-centered, Type Os laid-back and easy-going, and Type ABs creative and mysterious.

It’s pretty easy to notice that “self-centered” sticks out as an undesirable trait in group-oriented Japan, and it’s not unusual to hear singles say “I wouldn’t want to date someone who’s Type B.” And hey, when it comes to romance, people like what they like, and don’t what they don’t. The bigger problem, though, and the one Nawata is troubled by, is companies in Japan asking about applicants’ blood types during job interviews, something the professor calls “Blood Type Harassment.”

Nawata, along with a team of economic researchers, conducted a survey of more than 10,000 people in Japan and the U.S. Participants were asked for their attitudes regarding a total of 68 statements, such as “I leave fun things for later on,” and “People shouldn’t gamble.” Sawata then sifted through their responses to look for statistical discrepancies between respondents with different blood types.

The results were published in June in the journal of the Japanese Psychological Association. According to Sawata, differences between blood types were only observed for three of the 68 statements, and even then, they were minute.

“This strongly indicates that there is no connection between blood type and personality,” Sawata concluded.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare shares Sawata’s disdain for the popular form of pseudo-science, as well as his concern over individuals’ economic prospects being inappropriately affected by their blood type. “Blood type has absolutely no relation to a person’s work abilities or aptitudes,” the organization asserted in a statement. Likewise, Osaka’s Labor Bureau has asked certain companies to stop asking job-seekers for their blood type on applications.

So if psychologists and economists are speaking out against it, how did this whole blood type/personality thing become so prevalent? You can blame Masahiko Nomi, who wrote Understanding Affinity by Blood Type in 1971. From there, media outlets picked up his ideas, and the Japanese public imagination has never entirely let them go, despite some rather large contradictions to Nomi’s litmus/blood test of character.

For example, Al Capone’s Type O blood should have made him an easy-going guy, but history points to that label being less accurate than, say, violent mobster. And as for Type As? Well, O.J. Simpson and Adolph Hitler were Type A.

Wow, it’s like Nomi’s theories come from someone with almost no medical or psychological credentials at all. That’s not true though, at least until you remove the “almost” part. Nomi was a journalist who studied engineering in university. If being a writer without an educational background in mental health allows you to spout off on keys to a person’s psyche, my business degree and I want in on the action.

Some people are still unwilling to give up on Nomi’s ideas though, and usually cite two sources of anecdotal evidence. The first is that in Japan, where A is the most common blood type, being majime, earnest and responsible, is considered a virtue of the highest order. In contrast, blood type connection advocates say, the U.S. has many people who’re Type B, which is reflected in the American ideal of blazing your own trail in life.

Except, only about 11% of the U.S. has Type B blood, which doesn’t seem like nearly enough to be the driving force behind the country’s perceived national character. B isn’t even the most common American blood type (it’s O, and by a pretty decent margin). It’s more likely that Japan and America’s, on average, differing priorities are due to the influences of their differing historical and sociological circumstances.

The other defense of linking blood type to personality comes from people who swear their coworker/ex/friend from high school fits Nomi’s profile exactly. While it’s hard to argue with personal experience, once again you can’t ignore the sociological factors at play here.

While some people are more interested in blood types than others, pretty much everyone in Japan is aware of the basic profiles we described above, such as type Bs being predisposed to self-centeredness. Ask yourself this, though: Do you know anyone who’s never done a single selfish thing?

Of course you don’t. Even the most considerate people occasionally give into temptation or just suffer a lapse in concentration and put themselves before others. The difference is that when Yamada, who’s Type A, finishes the last of a pitcher of beer, people think, “Eh, he must be thirsty,” or “He probably had a rough week.” But when Type B Tanaka does the same thing, he gets a different reaction.

The human brain loves to look for patterns, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Long ago our ancestors put two and two together and realized everyone in the tribe who ate uncooked mammoth steaks that’d been lying out too long got sick and died, so maybe they should stop doing that, and our species got a little smarter and safer thanks to their powers of observation.

But sometimes, the brain goes into overdrive on its pattern hunt. When you stop and consider all of the life experiences, interpersonal relations, and soul-searching that goes into creating a person’s personality, it seems a little silly, and maybe even sad, to chalk it all up to the type of sugars attached to our red blood cells.

Sources: Yomiuri Online, American Red Cross, LiveScience, What’s My Blood Type

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japan’s curious obsession with blood type and personality illustrated in one photo -- What type of girlfriend are you? Wait a minute, let me check your bangs -- Personality test-obsessed Japan devises “Frozen” princess personality test for women

© RocketNews24

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20 Comments
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A long time ago a Japanese friend asked me my blood type. I replied, "Guess." She got it on the fourth try and added, "Yappari, you have all the characteristics of type ...." Then, uh, why four guesses?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

As long as there's morning TV segments & goukons, this is one aspect of Japanese culture that's never going away...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I had never heard of this before coming to Japan, in fact I didn't hear of it until quite a long time after our divorce but now I know it was pure coïncidence my J-hubby was type B...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Man I hate it when someone uses logic and reason to totally disprove a completely ridiculous theory. ;)

4 ( +5 / -1 )

So, basically, this article is a reprint of the "Blood types in Japanese culture" Wikipedia entry without the original history of Japanese blood typing: the unsavory 1927 anti-Taiwanese eugenics history section.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Blood type and horoscopes (Oriental and Occidental)... is the same thing... they just are fun and have no meaning.

So, Japanese tend to sort people by their blood type... in other countries, they do the same but with the horoscope (piscis, aquarius, taurus... so on).

Both are pseudo science and both are just for entertainment

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Intellectual laziness, all of it. Pigeonholing and pre-judging people's personalities into 4 blood types, 12 zodiac signs, or whatever rigid set of templates based on arbitrary and semi-random things like birth date, blood type, or even - skin color, country of origin or even gender.

PEOPLE ARE COMPLICATED damn it! Meet them, get to know them, judge them by what they say and do, don't be satisfied by two bits of information.

I refuse to give my blood type to anyone, except for medical reasons. Not because I want to keep it a secret, but because their question tells me something about the person asking it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I found out my blood type years ago. Mine is O+.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I have learned something new today.

As for the idea that this and other pseudo scientific ways to characterize people are just entertainment, I'm afraid far too many people take them too seriously.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It was about time 50 years ago but it will never go away. They like juvenile b.s. like this so they can throw the usual stereotypes at you. Perception is usually more important than reality to most here. By the way, I'm a Libra.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Just preaching to the choir but yeah, total junk science here. Not even science really.

Would be all well and good if people actually believed it to be "fun fluff" and that's it, but I remember reading on this very site how some companies wouldn't hire certain blood types... Or how some people refused to date or be friends with certain blood types.

Would be nice if an actual reputable media group would make a point of educating the masses, but after having to deal with a week of explaining that two, not three Japanese won the nobel prize, I think the media could care less about facts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Interviewer ( at job interview ): "Sorry, your years of education, experience and charitable work aren't enough to allay our fears over your lazy, selfish blood."

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Blood type question is not the weirdest one in JP.

Another common one is:

"Are you M or S?"

Seriously every time I don't know what to say.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Are you M or S?"

jhagen, (or anyone else) can you explain what this means?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sado Masochist

Japan is the land of ijime, even love is affected, thus the most complex perversion come from.

try to believe if you are brave enough.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This blood type obsession is pointless, moronic and an excuse for some to indulge in discriminatory practices.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I believe in blood type, will never hire a B woman!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yes it is silly. It can be self-fulfilling: when meeting someone you find out they are type A, so you focus on the parts of them that fit the type, and subconsciously ignore the qualities that don't fit, so you feel you can say, yappari! When you just constructed the whole thing in your own head.

I don't know my blood type and don't care to find out. I want to show my little high school students you can happily go through life without knowing it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Another common one is:

"Are you M or S?"

Seriously every time I don't know what to say.

I'm an L. (In Japan, I'm an XL.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tha S and M thing isn’t really sexual, though, at least was explained to me. It’s more a question of “Are you the aggressive, dominant type, or more self-effacing and timid?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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