Do you believe that blood types, like zodiac signs, can determine your personality? People in Japan take blood types very seriously, according to a recent BBC report. They have big implications for life, work and love. “What’s your blood type?” is often a key question in everything from matchmaking to job applications.
Last year, four of Japan’s top 10 best-sellers were about how blood type determines personality, selling more than 5 million copies altogether.
Taku Kabeya, chief editor at Bungeisha, the publisher of one of the books, told The Huffington Post that he thought the appeal of these books comes from having one’s self-image confirmed. Readers discover the definition of their blood type and “It’s like ‘Yes, that’s me!’”
As defined by the books, type As are sensitive perfectionists and good team players, but they tend to be over-anxious. Type Os are curious and generous but stubborn, while ABs are artistic but also mysterious and unpredictable. Type Bs are cheerful, but have eccentric, individualistic and selfish traits.
About 40 percent of the Japanese population are type A and 30 percent are type O, while only 20 percent are type B, with AB accounting for the remaining 10 percent, according to the BBC.
Morning television shows, newspapers and magazines often publish blood type horoscopes and discuss relationship compatibility based on blood types. Popular comics and video games often mention a character’s blood type.
You can even buy soft drinks, chewing gum, and bath salts catering to different blood groups.
Blood types, however, are simply determined by proteins in the blood. Why is it such a popular belief that they determine one’s character? One reason often given about the craze is that in a relatively uniform and homogenous society, it provides a simple framework to divide people up into easily recognizable groups.
“Being the same is considered a good thing here in Japanese society,” translator Chie Kobayashi told the BBC. “But we enjoy finding little differences that distinguish people.”
The beliefs surrounding blood groups have been used in unusual ways.
The women’s softball team that won gold for Japan at the Beijing Olympics is reported to have used blood type theories to design training for each player. Major companies reportedly make decisions about assignments based on employees’ blood types.
In 1990 the Asahi Daily newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Electronics had announced the creation of a team made up entirely of AB workers, because of “their ability to make plans”.
These beliefs even affect politics. Last year, the country’s Minister for Reconstruction Ryu Matsumoto was forced to resign after only a week in office, after a bad-tempered encounter with local officials was televised. In his resignation speech he blamed his failings on his blood type.
“My blood is type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don’t always come across,” said a remorseful Matsumoto.
Not all see the craze about blood types as harmless fun, and the Japanese now have a term for it, “bura-hara,” meaning blood-type harassment.
People with blood B and AB are especially looked down upon because according to their blood types they are strange and can’t get along with others. The negative images are so widely acknowledged that people with these blood types are reluctant to “come out”. It even affects their willingness to become blood donors.