"Sensei, what's your blood type?"
I tell the students that I'm surprised they don’t already know.
"You must be A-type," one of them says.
"Why do you say so?"
"Because you're so, so, meticulous and fussy."
"Yes, I suppose I am."
"I knew it!"
The students leave believing that I have Type-A blood. They're convinced of it, in fact, and if I were to tell them otherwise, they would probably argue me down. Let them believe what they want to believe, so long as they keep coming back, I say.
Now, I’m not such a bubblehead that I believe blood type determines one’s personality, but I have become convinced that for many Japanese merely believing that it does can have a big influence on their personalities.
A person who has Type-B blood, for instance, will be constantly told that B-types have bizarre taste, are unique and out-spoken to a fault, and tend, much to the frustration of those around them, to do things in their own way. A woman with Type-B blood, having heard this crap throughout her formative years, can't help but give into the consensus and conclude: I am, what I am, and then, go off saying what she thinks, wearing what she wants—no matter how outlandish—and generally acting like a screwball. It isn't the blood type; it's the license everyone gives her to act as she likes.
On the other hand, someone who has Type-A blood is expected to be a conformer, and, in general, he’ll stick to the stereotype.
When I'm asked on another occasion what my blood type is, I ask the students what they think. One ventures a guess: being American, I'm probably type O.
"Yes, agrees another. He is rather ‘O-ish’, isn't he?"
I remind them that being American doesn't mean much; that my own family came from Ireland, originally. And, while most Irish also have Type-O blood, there are parts of the country, which had Viking, Anglo Norman settlements where Type-A predominates. And then there are quite a few gypsies in Ireland and they are known to have predominately AB-Type blood.*
"Ah, that explains it," says another who's seen the light. "You have AB written all over your face."
"ABs are intelligent, too," chirps yet another. "Sensei’s got a good head."
Well, this isn't the correct answer, either, but if they want to curry favor with me by singing the praises of my intelligence, who's to stop them? They, too, leave as convinced as the other class was that their teacher has AB blood.
A big part of this silliness stems from the fact that many Japanese are eager to act out the role they or others have chosen for themselves. I’ve written about this before, but when, for example, a Japanese takes up a hobby, he often does so by starting with the “form”, or what is known as the katachi.
A surfer wannabe will buy a surfboard, get the right brand of shorts and drysuit, work his abs until he can scrub his laundry against them, tan his hide a golden brown, and grow his hair out. He might even buy a station wagon to carry all his gear. And he’ll do all of this before even hitting the waves.
And so it goes with the katachi a person’s blood type dictates. Not sure how you’re supposed to act? No problem: the fashion magazines will show you the way!
*To learn more about the distribution of blood types in the world visit this interesting site.