You are having a chat with someone you have just recently met. In the course of conversation he asks you, “What’s your blood type?” By your best guess he is:
- A. a vampire, trying to decide if you will be pleasing to his pallet.
- B. a concerned blood bank worker who is about to inform you how many liters of your type they need each day.
- C. in possession of a large quantity of excess blood and is determining if you would be interested in his surplus (for emergency transfusions, of course).
- D. trying to learn a bit more about your personality.
If you are in Japan, the answer will most likely be D.
How many of you reading this actually know your own blood type? I’m guessing it’s not many. Well, perhaps this entry will convince you all to ask your doctors next time you are in for a visit. In the interest of learning more about yourself.
In Japan it is “believed” that your ABO blood type reflects certain aspects of your personality, temperament, and compatibility with others. I say “believe” in quotations because it’s like astrological signs. People ask about it, but most people don’t take it too seriously. And like astrology I’m sure there are some people out there who take it really really seriously. But most people from my experience do not. It’s just for fun.
However, they do ask about it. This is just a normal question that people ask when getting to know each other. It’s kinda like the Japanese version of “What’s your sign?” except without the connotation of being asked predominantly by creepy guys trying to pick you up in bars. It’s estimated that 90% of the Japanese population know their blood type, although it’s impossible to tell if this is the cause of the “blood typology” phenomenon or a result of it.
Because compatibility is a factor, blood types are almost always listed in magazines when celebrities give profiles of basic information about themselves. So you can tell which if your favorite singers and actors are perfectly suited for you. Matchmakers and dating sites often use this information to help find you a match. Many politicians, including the former Prime Minister Taro Aso, seem to consider it important enough to list on their official profiles on the Internet. A good portion of the top selling books each year tend to be related to blood type and personality.
Knowing this all ahead of time, I wasn’t surprised when a class of forth graders asked me my blood type. At least, not once I understood what they were asking… I knew whatever the student was asking sounded familiar, but for the life of me I couldn’t place it. So the inquisitive kid used a very successful technique to help me understand. He started listing off all the possible answers. “A, O, AB” and suddenly I was like “OHHHH!” Smart kid. My junior high kids eventually got around to it too, although they asked in English (after some coaching from the English teacher). And, in case anyone is curious, my blood type is A.
While writing this entry I came across an interesting explanation for why this fad is popular in Japan and why it’s never really caught on overseas. In Japan, people are very similar genetically (such as similar hair and eye color). But they don’t want to seem the same. Interestingly though, the population of Japan has a fairly even distribution of blood types. So, if you group people by blood type, diversity is created. In Europe and America, however, the vast majority of people are type A or O. So most people would fall into only two of the categories. It’s not nearly as interesting that way.
I searched the internet for a bit and discovered that, at least of the sites in English (you know, that I can read…), not all seem to agree on what the traits are of each blood type. This didn’t really surprise me, since it is basically a horoscope. And since translation is obviously involved, it may be somewhat of a result of different people saying things different ways and stressing different things. But reprinted below is the one that seemed to fit best with what I had previously been told, so here it is in all its glory along with some notes on compatibility.
People with A type blood have a deep-rooted strength that helps them stay calm in a crisis when everyone else is panicking. However, they tend to avoid confrontation, and feel very uncomfortable around people. A types are shy and sometimes withdrawn. They seek harmony and are very polite, but all the same feel that they never really fit in with others. A types are very responsible. If there is a job to be done, they prefer to take care of it themselves. These people crave success and are perfectionists. They are also very creative, and the most artistic of all blood types, most likely because of their sensitivity. Most compatible with A and AB.
People with B blood are the most practical of the blood groups. They are specialist in what they do. When they start a project, they spend extra time understanding and trying to follow directions than others might. When they are doing something, all of their attention is focused on it. They tend to stick to a goal and follow through to the end, even if it seems impossible. They are often cheerful, but can be a bit selfish. They tend to be less than cooperative, as they like to follow their own rules and their own ideas and can be seen as eccentric. They are individualists. B type people pay attention to their thoughts a little more than their feelings, and therefore can sometimes seem cold and arrogant. Most compatible with B and AB.
AB type people are unique, are hard to categorize, and are rather mysterious. They can have characteristics on two ends of the spectrum at the same time. For instance they are both shy and outgoing. They easily switch from one opposite to another. Because of this they can be unpredictable and indecisive. AB people are trustworthy and responsible, but can't handle it when too much is asked of them. They don't mind doing favors or helping out, as long as it’s their own conditions. People with this blood type are interested in art and metaphysics. Compatible with all blood types.
O type people are outgoing, energetic and social. They are the most flexible of the blood types. They easily start up projects but often have trouble following through because they give up easily. They are flighty and not too dependable. O types always say what's on their mind, and how they feel. O types value the opinion of others, and like to be in the center of attention. Also, people with O blood are extremely self confident. They are curious and generous, but can be stubborn. Most compatible with O and AB.
This actually falls under the “things I learned from anime and manga” category. You too may have noticed that character profiles from anime, manga, or video games that come from Japan will often include blood type along with other stats like height, eye color, and birth date. When I first noticed this I was reading a lot of action series, so I thought, “Well, are they telling us this because those characters need a lot of blood transfusions?” And then in an anime magazine I stumbled across an article that explained it all to me.
You see, it’s almost a cheat. The creator is offering you a shortcut to the character’s personality. By saying a character has Type A blood the creator has already told you a lot about the character and how they might respond in certain situations. If you are Japanese anyway. Because while blood type in real life is determined by genetics, in fiction the author gets to fit it to his whims. So the personality fit will likely be much closer.
Of course, there is a slight darker side to the craze. The word buru-hara means harassment or discrimination based on blood type. Some job applications started to have a blank for blood type and people were asked about it in interviews. Since there are positive and negative traits for each type some companies were discriminating people based on their blood type. I don’t think it is very common anymore, but it made waves at one point.
So how does yours fit? Oh, wait. Perhaps you are like most Americans and don’t actually know your blood type. Well, such a revelation would shock my Japanese friends. After I told my students my blood type, my English teacher turned to me and said in a disbelieving voice, “The last ALT I worked with did not know his blood type.” It was as though he was telling me that he hadn’t known his birthday or what color his eyes were. This is just basic information here. I told him most of my friends don’t know their blood types and he was really surprised. ALL of my students know their blood type. I asked many of them after I told them mine. The kids who were A like me smiled in a sort of “we are the same” way that made me smile too.
Aren’t you curious now? There could be hidden factors to your personality lurking just below the surface. Or not, but hey you never know.