the new racism
Last updated 2-5-09 at 1:43 p.m.
By Mari Yamaguchi
The Associated Press
TOKYO (AP) — In Japan, “What’s your type?” is
much more than small talk; it can be a paramount
question in everything from matchmaking to getting a job.
By type, the Japanese mean blood type, and no amount
of scientific debunking can kill a widely held
notion that blood tells all.
In 2008, four of Japan’s top 10 bestsellers were about how blood
type determines personality, according to Japan’s largest book
distributor, Tohan Co. The books’ publisher, Bungeisha, says the
series — one each for types B, O, A, and AB — has combined
sales of more than 5 million copies.
Taku Kabeya, chief editor at Bungeisha, thinks
the appeal comes from having one’s self-image confirmed; readers
discover the definition of their blood type and “It’s like ‘yes,
Defined by the books, type As are sensitive perfectionists
but overanxious; Type Bs are cheerful but eccentric
and selfish; Os are curious, generous but stubborn; and ABs are artistic
but mysterious and unpredictable.
All this may sound like a horoscope, but the public
doesn’t seem to care.
Even Prime Minister Taro Aso seems to consider
it important enough to reveal in his official profile
on the Web. He’s
an A. His rival, opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa,
is a B.
Nowadays, blood types are featured in a Nintendo
DS game and on “lucky bags” of women’s accessories
tailored to blood type, and sold at Tokyo’s Printemps department
store. A TV network is set to broadcast a comedy
about women seeking husbands according to blood
It doesn’t stop there.
Matchmaking agencies provide blood-type compatibility
tests, and some companies make decisions about
assignments based on employees’ blood types.
Children at some kindergartens are divided up by
blood type, and the women’s softball team that won gold at the
Beijing Olympics used the theory to customize each
Not all see the craze as harmless fun, and the
Japanese now have a term, “bura-hara,” meaning blood-type
And, despite repeated warnings, many employers
continue to ask blood types at job interviews,
said Junichi Wadayama, an official at the Health, Welfare, and Labor
“It’s so widespread that most people, even company officials,
are not aware that asking blood types could lead
to discrimination,” Wadayama
Blood types, determined by the proteins in the
blood, have nothing to do with personality, said
Satoru Kikuchi, an associate professor of psychology at Shinshu University.
“It’s simply sham science,” he said. “The idea
encourages people to judge others by the blood
types, without trying to understand them as human beings. It’s
This use of blood-typing has unsavory roots.
The theory was imported from Nazi race ideologues
and adopted by Japan’s militarist government in the 1930s to breed
better soldiers. The idea was scrapped years later
and the craze faded.
It resurfaced in the 1970s, however, as Masahiko
Nomi, an advocate with no medical background, gave
the theory mass appeal. His son, Toshitaka, now
promotes it through a private group, the Human
Science ABO Center, saying it’s not
intended to rank or judge people but to smooth relationships and help
make the best of one’s
The books tend to stop short of blood-type determinism,
suggesting instead that while blood type creates
personality tendencies, it’s hardly definitive.
“Good job, you’re done. So how do you feel about the results?” one
blood type manual asks on its closing page. “Your type, after
all, is what you decide you are.” (end)