In the West, by which I loosely mean “anywhere that is not Asia”, there is something of a methodology for getting to know new people. If you see someone you find attractive, based on their appearance or some other early impression, you try to find out some more about them to determine whether you share some interests and attitudes. For instance, you might be curious to know if your subject likes shopping, or sports, what kind of music appeals to them, who they supported in the last election, where they work and/or go to worship, what their hobbies are, whether they have a pet, and so on. One question you would almost surely NOT ask is the number one question that comes to mind for a Japanese person: “What is your blood type?”
“My blood type?” I responded, a bit nonplussed. This was akin to asking a woman her age, or worse yet, her weight, wasn’t it? “I have no idea. I think it is A or O. Why?” Why indeed. Throughout northeast Asia, at least (I can speak for Japan and Korea in particular), the issue of blood type is paramount in the ongoing search for a companion or sweetheart. There is an entrenched belief that blood type determines a person’s character and attributes in some form or fashion as yet uncharted by Western science.
To wit: a person of the B blood type is “ganko”, or stubborn, intent on having his or her own way. Bs are, by reputation (and in no particular order), narcissistic, artistic, musical, and quite literary. They are not particularly inclined to follow rules or to be especially organized. Common wisdom has it that a lot of teachers, writers and other learned people are of the B blood type, as are a large proportion of Japanese abroad. Bs do not get along well with As at all.
Blood type A folks, by comparison, are very organized. Their houses are clean and tidy, their CDs are arranged alphabetically, their lifestyles buttoned-down, even by the already subdued Japanese standards. They tend to be quiet and unassuming. They lean strongly toward obedience to the rules. They are the worker bees of Japan. They will eat miso soup, fish, rice and pickles for breakfast, and remarkably similar fare for supper. Unsurprisingly, an overwhelming majority of Japanese are of the A blood type.
O blood type individuals get along with everyone; they are the party animals of Japan, easily capable of forging close ties with people of all other blood types. You can find Os in the last train most nights, on their way home after an evening of drinking and karaoke with work colleagues. They have no problem eating cold pizza for breakfast, even though the pizza toppings might include potato chunks and corn. They are the gregarious souls most likely to occupy the vacant subway seat next to the barbarian foreigner, the ones least likely to be embarrassed by long-dormant English skills. They don’t complain much, and they enjoy life to the max, or so the story goes.
AB is the rarest blood type, both in Japan and the rest of the world. ABs are exceptionally clever, sometimes to a fault. They are said to be “many faced”, not unlike “two-faced”, only more so. They are politically savvy (no surprise there) and occupy a disproportionate number of positions of power, both in government and industry. I don’t know if there are hard numbers around these assertions, but all this is information that is well “known” among Japanese.
Oddly, the Rh factor does not come into play. An A-positive shares all the attributes of an A-negative, as is the case with the other blood groups.
If all this sounds a bit outlandish, it is certainly no stranger than arranging one’s daily choices via horoscope, which many Westerners do religiously. For my part, I am going to compile a list of friends and acquaintances, with my best conjecture as to blood type in the column next to each name. Then I plan to poll them and see how close my guesses are to reality. I suspect there will be an inordinate number of Bs, followed by a liberal sprinkling of Os.