We’ve all turned to a horoscope at least once in our lives for reassurance. But while the West tend to look at the alignment of the planets to determine whether they’ll get that pay rise or whether their love interest feels the same, Japan has quite a different way of fortune-telling.
For the Japanese, it is blood type, rather than star sign, which has big implications for life, love and work. There is a widespread belief that character is linked to blood type, and many important decisions are made based on this key aspect of a person. “What’s your blood type?” is often a key question in everything from matchmaking to job applications.
Just as in the West Cancers are seen as sensitive, and Geminis as witty, each blood type is said to carry its own particular personality traits. People with type B blood for example are said to be optimistic, happy-go-lucky and social, while people with type O blood are thought to be ambitious, cautious and strong leaders. There are different recommended diets and exercise for each group, as well as recommended matches between blood types (O and A are a great combination but two Os could end in relationship disaster).
The popularity of the belief in the influence of blood types is evident in Japan through the success of literature focused on this subject. “A, B, O, AB gata jibun no setsumeisho” (A Guide to A, B, O, AB blood types), written by an unknown author who uses the pen name Jamais Jamais, have become best sellers in Japan. Erica Angyal, a Miss Universe Japan official nutritionist and health consultant, has published books on health and beauty by blood type, such as “Bijo no Ketsuekigata BOOK” (beautiful women’s blood type) and “Bijo no Ketsuekigata-bestu Obento BOOK” (beautiful women’s lunch box by each blood type). Morning television shows, newspapers and magazines also often publish blood type horoscopes and discuss relationship compatibility. Recent years have also seen an emerging industry of products which are blood type specific, with soft drinks, chewing gum and bath salts catering for different blood groups on sale.
But how has such a superstition become so insidious in a country renowned for its advancements in the field of science? Blood types are, after all, simply determined by proteins in the blood, but attempts by scientists to debunk the beliefs have invariably proved unsuccessful. One reason given for the huge popularity of the beliefs, is that in a relatively homogenous Japanese society, it provides a clear and straightforward framework to divide people up into recognisable groups. “Being the same is considered a good thing here in Japanese society,” says translator Chie Kobayashi. “But we enjoy finding little differences that distinguish people.”
Many Japanese people are shocked to discover that a lot of foreigners are not even sure of their own blood type. When you make your next trip to Japan, be sure to check your blood type before you go – you might just find your perfect blood partner!
Sources include: Japan Today, BBC Magazine
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