The latest craze in Japan is blood-typing, and according to its sanguine proponent Toshitaka Nomi, 36, what’s in our veins reveals much more about our character than what’s in our stars. Incredible as it may seem, blood types are being used for anything from the dating game to screening job applicants. In the footsteps of his late father, Masahiko Nomi, who first hyped blood-typing theories in his 1971 basic primer, Good Combinations of Blood Types (700,000 copies sold), Nomi has concocted a system correlating the major blood groups (O, A, B and AB) with certain personality traits. “This,” he insists, “is a new field of natural science.”
Based on questionnaires and surveys of more than 100,000 of his countrymen, Nomi has concluded that the type-O person (30 percent of all Japanese) is aggressive and realistic. Type A (40 percent) is industrious, detail-oriented, peace-loving and image-conscious. Type B (20 percent) is creative and individualistic, whereas the rare AB (10 percent) is apt to be two-faced and moody.
Type O’s are also astute about power, Nomi adds, noting that 64 percent of Japan’s postwar prime ministers have been O’s. (Kakuei Tanaka was a type-B prime minister, and he was convicted of taking bribes in the Lockheed scandal.) Nomi even sees significance in the victory of type-O Ronald Reagan over type-A Jimmy Carter, who, Nomi notes, “paid too much attention to detail and good human relations.”
Spurred by articles (20 a month), TV appearances and an outpouring of books (40 different titles, 22 by the younger Nomi, which have sold five million copies), the blood-type mania keeps building. Almost all young people in Tokyo know their blood type. “It’s the first thing I’m asked on a date,” says one. And lest the question remain in doubt, department stores are now selling bikini briefs and shorts with blood type duly emblazoned.
Businessmen, too, are recruiting employees according to blood type. Misawa Home Engineering (prefab housing) claims that in good times it hires bold O’s and creative B’s, while in bad times it prefers industrious A’s. “I’m an A type,” notes banker Shigeo Suzuki, 41. “That’s a good type for a banker, don’t you think? Prudent, cautious, not likely to gamble.”
Many Japanese scientists worry that the blood-type craze has been carried too far. Dr. Hideomi Nakahara, 40, professor of public heath at Yamanashi Medical School, calls it “an embarrassment to the nation,” adding, “Talk about blood type is okay for a party, but it’s not science.”
Blood typing soon may go international: Nomi hopes to have his first book translated into English for publication in the U.S. this fall. Meanwhile some Japanese are turning back to more traditional ways of divining character. “I prefer astrology,” says violinist Harumi Ebihara. “It has a longer history.”