Photo credit: Wikicommons
by Allison Biehl
Have your students asked your ketsueki-gata (血液型), or blood type? Have you noticed that celebrities in Japan often have their blood types listed as part of their vital statistics, and people even know the blood type of their favorite anime character? In Japan, blood type is seen as an important indicator of personality and personal success, similar to the way that Westerners sometimes put faith in astrology. Out of the four blood types – A, B, AB, and O – each has positive and negative traits associated with it.
Blood types were discovered in 1900 by Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner, and in the 1920s, theories linking temperament and behavior to blood types were not only common but popular. They were later disproved, but interest (and belief) in such theories rekindled in 1971 in Japan when Masahiko Nomi, a Japanese journalist and sumo essayist, published a book on the subject.
Does your camera match your blood type? (Photo Credit)
According to Wikipedia, blood type is at the forefront in many social interactions in Japan. Japanese and Korean versions of Facebook have allowed users to list their blood types (and now Western Facebook versions have jumped on the boat). In Japan, women’s magazines and matchmaking services use blood type as an indicator of a successful relationship, and morning TV shows and newspapers often have a blood type horoscope segment; again, shockingly similar to astrological signs. “Blood type harassment,” or bura-hara, has also been blamed for schoolyard bullying incidents.
Fortunes in Japan based on blood types (Photo Credit)
TYPE A – People with type A blood are seen as earnest, creative, reserved, sensible, patient, and responsible. They have inner strength and can stay calm in a crisis. Type A people tend to also be “Type A” in the Western sense: driven, successful, and often tense. On the flip side, they can also be fastidious, overly earnest, and stubborn. They can be perfectionists and demand a lot of themselves and others. Type A people are shy and may withdraw sometimes. They seek balance and harmony and tend to be very polite, but at the same time they feel like they never really fit in with other people. Finally, Type As are also creative and artistic, possibly because of their sensitivity to the world around them. Type A corresponds to Libra in Western astrology.
TYPE B – People with type B blood are more unconventional than Type As. Type B people are the most practical. They take the time to research and understand problems before they try to tackle them. They are intensely focused on details and focus all their attention on one thing at a time. B-types will set a goal and see it through to the end; they are methodical. They are very individual and more relaxed than Type A people. Type B people tend to give more weight to their thoughts rather than their feelings, so sometimes they are seen as cold. They can also be impulsive. Type B corresponds most closely to Taurus in Western astrology.
TYPE AB – People with type AB are cool, controlled, rational, sociable, and may have a “split personality.” They can also be critical, indecisive, forgetful, and irresponsible. They may be difficult to categorize because they have characteristics of both A-type people and B-type people. They can be both shy and outgoing in different situations. Type AB people are responsible, but may freak out if they feel too much is asked of them. They will happily help out with projects, but they want to do it on their own terms. They may be especially interested in art and metaphysics. Type AB corresponds most closely to Gemini in Western astrology.
TYPE O – People with type O are agreeable, sociable, and optimistic; but they can also be vain, rude, jealous, and arrogant. These people are thought to be the most flexible in terms of personality. They don’t always have good follow-through as many of their projects are abandoned halfway through. They value other peoples’ opinions highly and want to be the center of attention (think Leo in Western astrology). Type O is considered to be the “most average” blood type in Japan, and is also generally thought to be the best. Many professional athletes are type O.
According to popular belief:
A is most compatible with A and AB.
B is most compatible with B and AB.
AB is compatible with everyone.
O is most compatible with AB and O.
Not everyone puts stock in the blood type compatibility idea, however. As with astrology in the West, women seem to be more interested in blood types for potential compatibility, and men seem to see them as a predictor of personal or business success. There is also the idea, put forward by a non-Japanese neuropathic doctor, that different diets are healthier for people with different blood types. Although the blood type diet does not have the same roots as “blood type astrology,” both have been similarly debunked by scientists and physicians.
Towels oraganized by blood type at Loft Umeda (Photo Credit)
When I donated blood, I was excited to learn my blood type, and the description of my type is accurate in places. It’s not that it’s inaccurate in others; more that I think it’s too broad to be really useful. Do you know your blood type? Do you think the descriptions are accurate? If you have a partner or spouse, are your blood types compatible within this system? If you don’t have a partner, would you consider blood type compatibility before you got together with someone?