All That Bloody Woo

Many kinds of woo that we see on a daily basis seem to either be ancient tradition, or they come from some outlandish culture – thus making them mystic and natural. Sometimes new types of woo seem to crop up everyday, often . But fear not, because there are still several types of woo that haven’t yet travelled from their places of origin. Wacking them might seem a bit wasted, but I work on the principle of doing things sooner than later. And also, we get an opportunity to see that other progressive cultures have their crazy aspects. One of these is the Japanese blood type woo.

Japan is a country that is generally very secular and progressive, but everyone has their faults. It is a very prominent belief that your blood type determines many different aspects in your life. This idea is also seen in other countries in Asia, but nowhere as strongly as in Japan. Personality and temperament, among other things, are all affected. It all boils down to whether you have A, B, O or AB. There are many ways to group blood types, but in the ABO system the distinction between the different types is all about what kind of molecule (antigen) is sitting on you red blood cells.

In other words, blood type woo is much like astrology, except that there’s fewer choices. Astrology is also a lot older than blood type woo – therefore more authentic, obviously – and in fact the ABO blood group system wasn’t discovered until the beginning of the 20th century. Soon after the system was established, a Japanese scientist name Takeji Furukawa conducted a study on the blood type distribution of ethnic Taiwanese people and the Ainu, the aboriginal Japanese. He concluded that the observed difference in distribution could explain the insurgency of the Taiwanese against their Japanese occupiers, where the Ainu where deemed calmer and more submissive. The theory faded into obscurity, mostly because it was blatantly unscientific and false. The resurrection happened some decades later, lead by a Japanese lawyer of all things, and the angling towards popular culture made it an instant hit.

Today, blood type woo is everywhere in Japanese popular culture, and surprisingly to a much higher degree than astrology is in Western culture. Books about the subject are wildly popular and newspapers and TV shows feature blood type horoscopes. People are even advised to not marry or date others who have the “wrong” personality because of their blood types. The interest in blood type also stands out very much in fiction. Celebrities and fictional characters in manga, animé and TV shows often have their blood type presented together with other personal facts.

Scientifically, there is very little basis for anything surrounding the belief in the powers of blood type. Nothing suggests that people with type O are more “agreable, sociable and vain” than those with type A. These vague descriptions of personality traits seem to be another thing that is shared with astrology. It almost goes without saying that trusting any sort of chart, whether it is for blood type or astrological sign, can be very harmful when personal choices are concerned.

A slightly newer claim stemming from an American naturopath is that people should eat according to their blood types, the so-called blood type diet. The idea is that the different molecules on the red blood cells will react differently to different types of food. This diet seems to have very little to do with the Japanese belief, but is still void of any basis in reality and has no scientific support.

So you might hear people talking about how you should change you lifestyle in accordance with your blood type. Luckily, there’s no reason give yourself the extra hassle of checking you friends’ blood types.  The only time where your blood type will likely have anything to say is if you want to become a donor, or need a tranfusion yourself.

Previous post

Systems Thinking Part 3: Practice

Next post

Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks 9.10



Ine is a second-year university student who spends most of her time far north and in really, really bad weather. She has been interested in science for most of her life, and the enthusiasm for critical thinking has tagged along almost inevitably, which means that she often grumbles about creationism and other kinds of woo. When she has some spare time, Ine does taekwondo, draws and reads.

1 Comment

  1. September 16, 2012 at 10:32 am —

    I don’t know, Ine. I have type O blood and I am *pretty* vain.

    Oh, did I say vain? I meant to say that I love sweat pants and hate doing my hair.

Leave a reply