It has been about 8 months since I first arrived here in Japan. Just casually walking streets, you'll find a variety of people that will pass by. Whether it be through their dress or style, or even their mannerisms to you when they greet you, you will generally find that people are all similar. This is only when looking at things on the surface. There's no telling what kind of people they are like, because you never know if they are showing you their true face or not. How can you tell what kind of people they are? How can you more easily be able to judge a person's character?
While there are many types of ways to "categorize," a majority of Japanese people like to believe in blood type (ketsueki-gata). What does this mean? People will categorize each other by the blood types (Thanks Wikipedia):
- A (Best traits: Earnest, creative, sensible / Worst traits: Fastidious, overearnest)
- AB (Best traits: Cool, controlled, rational / Worst traits: critical, indecisive)
- B (Best traits: Wild, active, doer / Worst traits: Selfish, irresponsible)
- O ( Best traits: Agreeable, sociable, optimistic / Worst traits: vain, rude)
Now you may ask, what does all this mean? Basically, it is easier to understand a person's personality by categorizing them into one of these four. If you talk to any Japanese person, chances are they will know their blood type and try to find a correlation with it and people around them. Watch any television show and they will judge your romantic compatibility horoscope with another person with this information. It is interesting to look at these traits, because they are all generally written. Anyone can apply to each of these descriptions, but many people here believe that their dominant traits are described just within these categories.
Much like blood types, another wildly popular subject in Japan is the Western view of birthdays/astrology. Similarly to how it is believed in the West, the Japanese also will categorize or judge a person's character based on this information. Turn on the TV, and you will usually see a horoscope forecast for that day and given sign. Go to the bookstore and you'll see a variety of literature dedicated to people born on a particular day/time/location, their romantic compatibility with other signs, or even descriptions of what is believed to be their future.
While many Japanese believe this to be true, could this just be an easier way to make more sense of the people around us? Could this just be making things easier to see and understand, without having to go through the hassle of getting to know a person? Does this alleviate stress by attaching 'truths' to a person without really knowing who they are? Does this give confidence to people in order to deal with others better?
Our financial security, our jobs, our family lives, our love lives, our future.. these are all common problems that we face each day with other people. There are so many uncertainties in this world, but these are ways to make things easier to understand everyone around us, including ourselves. They alleviate the stress of knowing the unknown. People spend hundreds of dollars on analysts who specialize in these areas, hoping to get a better understanding of their surroundings.
When it becomes so simple to categorize people in this manner, do we disregard the way they were raised? Do we disregard their current mental state? Do we disregard their core values? While it may be easier to deal with others using these categories, we should not forget that people are still people, and we are a product of our environment and the experiences we go through.