Discrimination by... blood type?

by HRM16 Nov 2012

In places around the world, your blood type usually only matters if you ever need a blood transfusion. In Japan, however, a person’s blood type is popularly believed to define one’s character, and has deep implications for life, love and work.

According to conventional wisdom in Japan, type Bs are cheerful but eccentric, individualistic and selfish. Type As are sensitive perfectionalists, good team players but over-anxious. Type Os are curious and generous, but stubborn. Those born with AB blood types are artistic and mysterious, but also unpredictable.

While scientists have often tried to debunk this popular myth, the belief about blood types is so ingrained in the Japanese that it is difficult to break away from such stereotypes.

People have blamed blood type for the loss of jobs, or for winning an important deal.

In July 2011, Minister for Reconstruction Ryu Matsumoto resigned after being criticised for making insensitive remarks.

In a report by BBC, he said: "I would like to offer my apologies for offending the people in the disaster-hit areas. I thought I was emotionally close to the disaster victims, but I lacked sufficient words and my comments were too harsh. My blood's type B, which means I can be irritable and impetuous, and my intentions don't always come across.”

Even major companies reportedly make decisions about assignments based on employees' blood types.

Back in 1990, Asahi Daily newspaper reported that Mitsubishi Electronics had announced the creation of a team composed entirely of AB workers, thanks to "their ability to make plans".

One’s blood type is not just harmless fun, but a serious matter in Japanese culture.

The term bura-hara, meaning blood-type harassment, is now increasingly common as a form of prejudice and discrimination, especially at the workplace.

Many employers continue to ask blood types at job interviews, Terumitsu Maekawa, professor of comparative religion at Tokyo's Asia University and author of several books about blood groups, was quoted saying in BBC.

Prof Maekawa, himself type B, his blood group is often criticised in Japan for being too individualistic and selfish.

"It isn't very nice. But it doesn't annoy me or hurt me, because it has no scientific basis at all."