Japan’s curious obsession with blood type and personality

TOKYO —

In a number of East Asian countries, but perhaps most strongly in Japan, it is believed that one’s blood type, or “ketsuekigata” (血液型), determines a lot about one’s character and how we relate to others and the world around us.

Although comparatively few Westerners who have never donated blood or had the misfortune of being seriously ill know their blood type, it is rare to meet a Japanese person who does not know theirs, and it’s considered perfectly normal for people to try to guess someone’s blood type when first getting to know them or working together closely.

It’s easy for non-Japanese to forget the character traits that blood types supposedly denote, so here’s a brief rundown on the four “ketsuekigata” and the kind of person you’ll be forever labelled as from the second you tell someone yours.

A型/blood-type A: You’re serious, tremendously attentive to detail, and always neat and tidy (or “anally retentive” as the good Dr Freud might have put it). You’re also considered to be very kind and, if you happen to own a car, a careful driver.

B型/blood-type B: You’re kind of self-centered, strong-willed and buck trends and expectations. You’re often viewed as the rebel, but you’re also flexible in your thinking and very playful.

O型/blood-type O: You’re care-free and very easy-going. Sure, there are probably rules about what to do with your empty hamburger wrapper, but you’re not bothered either way. Whatever, man, it’s all cool. Oh, look, a squirrel.

AB型/blood-type AB: Hey, you creative weirdo, no one understands you and you’re under-appreciated. You’re artistic, prone to feeling hurt when criticised, and enjoy having time to yourself.

Source: Alfaalfa

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  • 8

    NZ2011

    And blood-type denoting personality, just like astrology, is just sudo-scienitific garbage.

    I imagine it is mostly a case confirmation bias, and a misunderstanding of biology.. anyway..of all the silly things people believe I guess this one is pretty harmless I suppose as long as no-one takes it too seriously...

  • 11

    Ah_so

    The only one that I do not fit is a type A. All the other 3 I found myself nodding in agreement, thinking, yeah, that's me.

    I am of course, type A.

  • 17

    Hide Suzuki

    I'm sick of these people who actually believe this crap. It's based on zero science, zero evidence but so many people still believe it.

  • 14

    the_sheriff

    This makes perfect sense to me. Of course all people can be categorized into one of four personality types. There can't possibly be more personality types out there.

  • 4

    sighclops

    @Hide Suzuki

    Even potential employers and people on dates! It's crazy...!

  • -2

    TokyoGas

    I thought these views came from Germany sometime in the early 1900's. I read that a group of German youths came to Japan on some type of excursion and somehow the talk moved to blood type and personality. From there it took off.

  • 6

    tideofiron

    It actually stems from Japan's pre-war obsession with eugenics theories, which were basically racism wrapped up in junk science. It helped justify Japan's wartime aggression and war aims to itself and led to such wonderful things as atrocities, Unit 731 and forced sterilization of those deemed "inferior". Basically, it is a holdover from fascism that the Allies neglected to correct after occupying Japan after the war.

  • 5

    Mocheake

    Silly pseudo-science at its best. My blood type has been 'x' for so many years that people have stopped asking me.

  • 4

    The Original Wing

    I've always found things like this and astrology to be entertaining to talk about, and to compare to reality, but always without any actual, serious belief. I'm frequently amazed at the number of people I've run into in Japan who adamantly believe that there's scientific fact behind these correlations.

  • 11

    Tessa

    It actually stems from Japan's pre-war obsession with eugenics theories, which were basically racism wrapped up in junk science. It helped justify Japan's wartime aggression and war aims to itself and led to such wonderful things as atrocities, Unit 731 and forced sterilization of those deemed "inferior".

    I love telling people that, you should see their faces.

    By the way, I routinely tell Japanese people that my blood type is C, and most of them believe me!

  • 4

    bicultural

    Japanese people, especially women, "believe" in this as much as they believe the horoscope. If it's good luck, they believe it. If it's bad luck, they ignore it. Similarly, if it applies, they believe it. If not, they ignore it. The fact is, there are so many characteristics for each and the language is so general and vague that everyone will find something that is true for them.

  • 1

    Vernie Jefferies

    Tessa that is funny.

  • 3

    Peacetrain

    " I routinely tell Japanese people that my blood type is C, and most of them believe me!"

    So THAT explains why people think i must be C....

    Actually, what's really weird is when people really believe it and try to guess what others types are. But even when they're wrong people will say stuff like "No I'm not O but A. But I am a little O'ish." "Yeah I understand! I'm AB but more B really, but still have some O in me...."

    For the really scientifically minded they get down to someone being a Type A scorpio from the year of the monkey.

  • -10

    albaleo

    People are quick to dismiss this in the same way they might dismiss astrology. But do you never wonder what is the cause of different personalities? Is it something we're born with or something we "learn" as we grow. And if it's something we're born with, does it have a physical cause or is it something we were given by a creator? Blood types represent a physical difference among humans, so it seems reasonable to consider it might have some effect on our behavior. It should also be easy enough to find out. For example, is there a notable difference in blood type distribution among certain professions than among the general population? Some studies say no, others say yes.

    I know of one Japanese company that , while not necessarily believing in this, made sure they recruited a complement of B and AB employees every year. Just in case. So it's not your normal kind of discrimination. All personality types are valued.

  • 2

    Thunderbird2

    My ex actually made me get a blood test to prove I was the group I said I was because my personality didn't fit with what the charts all said. She's AB and doesn't have an artistic bone in her body lol, so that's how accurate that is.

  • 2

    Viclovesdrama

    One that makes me still laugh, my ex-boyfriend asked me on our second date or so. He's B and I am A, when we split up he said anyway, it wouldn't have worked out because of our bloodtypes - and the man was in his 30ties.

    @albaleo - personalities are most likely formed by a mix of your DNA and external factors such as how we were brought up, socio-economic factors, your peers, personal experiences and traumas, your hormone levels etc etc ...

    One easy way to identify this as BS: A lot of Japanese people I have met are type B, B's are rebels, I have never met a Japanese person who was a rebel or was viewed as one ->hence BS

  • 0

    avigator

    I agree with NZ2011. Everybody can be who they are based on what kind of principles they follow and in what kind of truth they believe in "The truth will set you free".

  • 3

    bass4funk

    Nothing is more annoying than meeting someone in Japan and after 10 min. Of having a light conversation, they ask you, "what is your blood type?" It is THE most annoying thing that can put a damper on any social gathering, problem is, their curiosity doesn't stop if you don't answer, it gets worse and sometimes people can be a bit persistent all the while gazing at you in amazement that you don't even care what blood type you are.

    I always tell them this story and they usually feel stupid after this.

    Nothing is more annoying than meeting someone in Japan and after 10 min. Of having a light conversation, they ask you, "what is your blood type?" It is THE most annoying thing that can put a damper on any social gathering, problem is, their curiosity doesn't stop if you don't answer, it gets worse and sometimes people can be a bit persistent all the while gazing at you in amazement that you don't even care what blood type you are.

    I always tell them this story and they usually feel stupid after this.

    It was only in 1901 that the ABO blood group system was discovered by the Austrian scientist Karl Landsteiner. His Nobel prize-winning work made it possible to identify the different blood groups, paving the way for transfusions to be carried out safely.

    Theorists of eugenics later hijacked his research during the inter-war years, with the Nazis using his work to further their ideas of racial supremacy.

    It was also adopted by Japan's militarist government in the 1930s to train better soldiers, and during World War II, the Imperial Army is reported to have formed battle groups according to blood type.

    The study of blood types in Japan gained mass appeal with the publication of a book in the 1970s by Masahiko Nomi, who had no medical background. More recently, his son Toshitaka went on to promote it further through a series of popular books - he also runs the Institute of Blood Type Humanics. He says his aim is not to judge or stereotype people, but simply to make the best of someone's talents and improve human relationships.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-20170787

  • 1

    Cliffy

    I am A+, but if you ask my wife, she will disagree with what is written here about people with type A blood.

  • 0

    Jimizo

    My blood type is one which is often over the limit even the morning after. That is how blood 'types' can be a true sign of character.

  • -1

    boweevil

    Three types of people? Sure, makes perfect sense in a nation where it is physically painful for the people to tell a lie.

  • 6

    JTDanMan

    血液型 comes out of the 1920s and 1930s. Based entirely on junk science, and promoted along with the idea that East Asians are superior to others, and Japanese, of course, the best of the East Asians.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BloodtypesinJapaneseculture#History

    Its racist. Pure and simple. No different than the phrenology of the late 19th century. Today's advocate of 血液型 are at best witless promoters of a pernicious tenant of nihonjinron.

  • 0

    NathalieB

    I stop reading this junk as soon as I see that my husband and I are both type A and yet hes a neat freak, Im more laid back, I have incredible attention to detail, he doesnt, and dont get me started on his driving skills.

  • 0

    ryuusei

    I think personality types are more important - choosing someone based off of blood type is unfair and basically racism.

  • 1

    Shokwav

    I think this is taken about as seriously as the horoscope.

  • 1

    lucabrasi

    @ryuusei

    No. Choosing somebody on the basis of blood type is 100 per cent the very opposite of racism. Think about it.

  • 4

    Tahoochi

    Hide SuzukiMar. 04, 2014 - 08:37AM JST

    I'm sick of these people who actually believe this crap. It's based on zero science, zero evidence but so many people still believe it.

    Ahhhhh.... you must be Type 'B' blood!

  • 5

    FightingViking

    My blood type ? Cabernet Sauvignon, "mis en bouteille au Château"

    Unfortunately, turned out to be very true for my ex... He was Type B...

  • 2

    gkamburoff

    Mine's red.

  • 1

    JoeBigs

    Not only the Japanese have crazy ideas about blood, some of these ideas are even crazier.

    My favorite of these crazy ideas are the folks that try and link blood types to religion or aliens, they call it the RH Neg conspiracy.

    Blood is blood, some are rarer than others, but they have nothing to do with a persons personality.

  • 2

    The Original Wing

    A Japanese acquaintance once asked me what blood type I am. I told him it's B. He became confused and told me that I was mistaken...B (like A, AB, and O, according to him) are JAPANESE blood types. I have GAIJIN blood, he explained, so he was curious as to what types we had.

  • 3

    tinawatanabe

    I don't think Japanese are obsessed with blood type. They're just poor conversationalists, and cannot think of anything else to talk about with you.

  • 2

    Fox Cloud Lelean

    I'm an A-type, but I'm closer to the "characteristics" of an AB type. I can tell that this is utter tripe. Type A is the most common blood type. Two-thirds of the world's population have it. Two-thirds of the world's population is not "anally retentive", not even close. If this was actually true, then I might have figured out a way to fit three times more possessions than my room can actually store. Sorry, that was a little incoherent. What I'm trying to say is that I've got a lot of stuff, and nowhere to store it. I couldn't even fit all of my belongings in my last home's bedroom, and now my new home's bedroom is half the size, and I have even more belongings. I wish I was anally retentive. That said, my DVDs are strictly organised in a specific order and seeing one out of place, even slightly, drives me mad. But that's just because I have moderate OCD. So, I suppose that's one A-type characteristic I kind of have. But I'm still more of an AB type apparently. People don't understand me. Everyone calls me weird. I choose to be alone (I even have that phrase in Japanese on the back of my neck. Big mistake, turned out very bad), and I spend most of my spare time writing or drawing. You know, being creative. In other words: I'm a creative weirdo that people don't get, and I prefer to spend time alone. Exactly what the AB type is supposed to be. Ipso Facto, there is no link between blood type and personality. This is psuedo-science. Goodnight.

  • -1

    WilliB

    NZ2011:

    " And blood-type denoting personality, just like astrology, is just sudo-scienitific garbage. "

    I agree, but I also think that it is at least conceivable that the blood type story has at least something to it. Because blood types are real physical characteristics, and we are far from understanding all the details of how the brain could possibly be influenced by them. So I am agnostic unbeliever on this one.

    But it is harmless fun, so I see no need to get into arguments about it. I am happy to be B-gata, and it always makes for funny conversation.

  • 1

    timtak

    WilliB

    I agree, but I also think that it is at least conceivable that the blood type story has at least something to it. Because blood types are real physical characteristics

    Ones star sign, and thus the time of year that one is born, and temperature, incidence of playing outside, catching influenza, etc., at various developmental stages, could also conceivably, have something to it, as some - even Eysenck have argued. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224545.1978.9924119#.UxbbnoUzBBk

    The majority of scientific studies have demonstrated however, that both star signs and blood types have no correlation with character, E.g. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886905004046 http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/apl/20/6/785/ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019188690400176X http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886902001010 except in the self-evaluations of those that believe in them, possibly as the result of self-fulfilling prophecy, and the Barnum effect (using general descriptions, ones that contain something for everyone, or flattery) <www.adaptech.org/cfichten/abPopularHoroscopesFT.pdf>

    I am rather chuffed to be an A.

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Keep reading the horoscope, and playing the lottery!

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    As the most rare blood type, AB-negative, what does that mean? Same as AB or opposite? :-) There's a book out that I read in a health food store that correlated blood type to how the body assimilates food, which sort of made sense.

  • 0

    ryuusei

    @lucabrasi

    I said basically racism - it's the same concept of classifying people based on a certain characteristic.

  • -1

    ukguyjp

    FFS!! Hasn't this crap been dead and buried already!???

  • 0

    JoiceRojo

    It is a curious obsessions that Japanese have, I was asked once and I didn't know what to say, since in my country is defined by numbers and not ABO system... anyway i asked my mum because when I had Hep B the doctors did type me in order to tell me that I cannot donate blood but which one I could receive...

    I'm an O, curiously enough it fits close....

  • 0

    Godwin Etuk

    Am surprise to hear a lot of educated people making such comment without any regard to the realities of a research. come on look at yourself your health in relation to what you eat. Am AB and I see most(65%) of this is true.

    Nobody is saying divorce rate should have increase because of their finding. you're not your forefather you have access to quality education, rich information and your environment is more sophisticated than that of your forefathers that is why u r almost living as if this findings are not true. if you guys where living in the most remote areas on earth where assess to so many basic necessities of life is hard I think you'll appreciate the life you're living right now. Japan invaded China but Japanese scientific discoveries i believe are still respected by the Chinese without resorting to bad days.

    if u guys keep thinking like this maybe the researches u carry out there is fake

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