Ewww! You're Blood


Written by Kieron Monks
26 Tuesday 26th January 2010

Throughout history the one thing we've been very good at is discrimination. We have a natural flair it seems - we can always find a reason to alienate and persecute others. Time was we could set fire to people if their warts looked too witchy. Of course we grew out of that quickly enough, moving on to more evolved forms of prejudice such as gender and race. But now that we have had female prime ministers, black presidents and gay marriages, what's left for the hard-core bigot? Well, don't despair all you hate-mongers out there, for Japan has cultivated a whole new reason to give people funny looks. It's your blood.

In recent years blood types have increasingly been used to categorise people, in much the same way as people read their star signs. Scientists around the globe are tearing their hair out as it has long been established that the only difference between blood groups is the antibodies present. These determine what donor blood you can receive. There has never been any reason to link type with personality. But never mind that. Four of the top ten best-selling self help books in Japan teach you how to make best use of your disposition. The prime minister proudly announced his 'A' status in the lead up to the general election, which handily places him in the majority.

The best-selling blood type series

Get talking to someone in Tokyo and chances are they will want to know your type right after your name. Apparently it is highly revealing not only of your personality, but also your sexual compatibility. So if you don't know, say B as they are most compatible with A, the largest group. But beware, many people claim to possess 'blood-dar' and may well decipher your nature just from your body language or general vibe.

Blood specific condom machine

Epic measures are being taken to explore the distinctions. A Japanese TV network recently showed children at a nursery being divided by blood group. They were compared and assessed, based on activities like eating, cleaning and taking their shoes off at the door. Understandably this kind of segregation drives a wedge between kids. Blood-bullying, which was already a major problem in Japanese schools, has become enough of an issue to merit its own specific term; 'Bura-hara', meaning blood type harassment.

Personality chart for blood types

Despite the scientific debunking, there has been an ungodly scramble to produce blood specific products. Many consumer products in Tokyo now come in a range of blood-related types, from women's accessories to Nintendo games and even condoms. New TV shows and movies, such as dating game I'm Type O and the movie My Boyfriend is Type B are helping to raise the profile. Dieticians are spending millions on researching type-specific diets, while matchmaking agencies commonly use type as criteria. As and Bs are believed to be the best match.

But this is not an innocent craze. The first society to make a big deal out of blood types were the Nazis. They used their prevalence of A and O blood to show their superiority over Jews and Asians, who have a larger proportion of type B. SS officers used to have their type tattooed under their arms alongside a swastika. The fascination died out during the 1930's when no proof could be found of blood's effect, but it has never completely gone away. Certainly it is a curious phenomenon how types change across the world, for instance there are three times as many type Bs in Russia as there are in the UK. Sakumi Itabashi, liberal arts professor and author of The Myth of Fortunetelling, blames Japan's interest on a national passion for efficiency and order. "People want to find a rule in everything, including personality, because that makes things more predictable and they feel more secure."

Type O-outgoing, social blood

Yet Japan's love for type shows no sign of abating and has even spread to China and Korea. Perhaps interest will fizzle out as it did in the 1930s, but type has embedded itself into Japanese culture enough to form an extremely lucrative industry. So just in case this is here to stay, it may be worth getting to know your blood a little better.

Trailer for 'My boyfriend is type B'

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