Blood, Sweat and Type O: Japan's Weird Science

December 15, 2006


當一個又一個來自亞洲的球員在MLB舞台上大放異彩後
也意外帶起了美國佬對於神秘東方文化的好奇心
記得之前The New York Times對王建民所做的專訪中
(報導全文請見Yankees’ Wang Finds His Place on the Mound and in the World)
就對王建民回到台灣後必和父母同住並且把一大部分來自洋基的薪水直接匯進父母戶頭
感到十分訝異而驚奇
最近一波由D-Mat (或是你要稱他是Dise-K都可...) 引發的熱潮
讓這樣的文化交流 (或是文化衝擊) 益發頻繁

在台灣或是在大部分的亞洲國家
人們都習慣用血型作為分析一個人性格的參考依據
不過這對可能壓根不曉得自己血型的絕大多數美國人來說
是個有趣但也難以相信的文化現象
就在全紐約的報章媒體都在昨天大肆報導D-Mat終於和BoSox簽下6年合約的新聞時
The New York Times有著這麼一篇名為Blood, Sweat and Type O: Japan's Weird Science的文章
試圖告訴美國讀者到底除了生涯數據, 身體素質及心理強度外
日本人如何透過對於血型的分析而相信D-Mat先天上就比其他球員更具走向成功的條件

雖然我個人認為比起美國人習慣的星座分析
血型分析其實是更籠統, 更不精確的方法
(或許美國人要學學亞洲人...把血型和星座分析結合)
因此用這樣的分析方法來解讀一個球員似乎也不那麼具報導價值
不過看到這些我們習以為常的文化現象
看在一海之隔的美國佬眼中都成了某種程度的文化衝擊時
感覺倒是頗妙的...


Blood, Sweat and Type O: Japan's Weird Science
By DAVID PICKER
Published : December 14, 2006

In the end, the Red Sox apparently decided to spend more than $100 million to get the Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka in a Boston uniform for the next six seasons, a daring financial outlay for an athlete who has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues or sampled the mildly insane rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees.

For intrigued baseball fans in the United States, Matsuzaka’s relevant statistics are no-brainers: 26 years old, 6 feet, 187 pounds and a 108-60 record with a 2.95 earned run average in eight seasons with the Seibu Lions.

But what many fans, the Red Sox front office and even Matsuzaka’s determined agent, Scott Boras, may not realize is that in the eyes of the Japanese, Matsuzaka’s most revealing statistic might be his blood type, which is Type O. By Japanese standards, that makes Matsuzaka a warrior and thus someone quite capable of striking out Alex Rodriguez, or perhaps Derek Jeter, with the bases loaded next summer.

In Japan, using blood type to predict a person’s character is as common as going to McDonald’s and ordering a teriyaki burger. The association is akin to the equally unscientific use of astrological signs by Americans to predict behavior, only more popular. It is widely believed that more than 90 percent of Japanese know their blood type.

“In everyday life in Japan, blood type is used as a kind of a social lubricant, a conversation starter,” said Theodore Bestor, a professor of Japanese studies and anthropology at Harvard University. “It’s a piece of information that supposedly gives you some idea of what that person is like as a human being.

“Japanese tend to have a fairly strong kind of inherent belief that genetics and biology really matter in terms of people’s behavior. So I think Japanese might be much more predisposed to thinking about a kind of genetic basis for personality than most Americans would.”

Japanese popular culture has been saturated by blood typology for decades. Dating services use it to make matches. Employers use it to evaluate job applicants. Blood-type products — everything from soft drinks to chewing gum to condoms — have been found all over Japan.

No one is suggesting that blood type can truly predict whether Matsuzaka will pitch well enough in the major leagues to justify Boston’s huge investment. Like any other pitcher, he will have to stay healthy. And like other Japanese players who have preceded him here, he will have to adjust to a foreign culture and, in his case, to hitters who are bigger and stronger than those in Japan.

A person can have one of four blood types, A, B, AB or O, and while the most common blood type in Japan is Type A, many of the more prominent Japanese players are like Matsuzaka, Type O. That group includes Hideki Matsui of the Yankees, Kazuo Matsui of the Colorado Rockies (and formerly of the Mets, with whom he was a huge disappointment) and Tadahito Iguchi of the Chicago White Sox.

Sadaharu Oh, the great Japanese home run hitter? He is type O, too, as is Kei Igawa, the 27-year-old Hanshin Tigers left-hander who has until Dec. 28 to sign with the Yankees.

In Japan, people with Type O are commonly referred to as warriors because they are said to be self-confident, outgoing, goal-oriented and passionate. According to Masahiko Nomi, a Japanese journalist who helped popularize blood typology with a best-selling book in 1971, people with Type O make the best bankers, politicians and — if you are not yet convinced — professional baseball players.

But there are exceptions to any categorization, and in this instance one of them would appear to be Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, who has become one of the great hitters in major league baseball since joining the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Suzuki is Type B.

“That makes sense in a way,” said Jennifer Robertson, a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan who specializes in Japanese culture and history. Robertson added that people with Type B, known as hunters, are said to be highly independent and creative.

And creative would be a good adjective to describe Suzuki at the plate, where he sprays the ball to all fields and sometimes seems to hit the ball to an exact spot. Suzuki set the major league record for hits in a season with 262 in 2004.

“Even in Japan, Ichiro was kind of a maverick baseball player in the sense of being very philosophical and very meticulous,” Robertson said. “People with Type B are individuals and they find their own way in life.”

Can any of these correlations be scientifically supported? The medical community does not think so, Even in Japan, they are accepted on faith.

“There’s absolutely no evidence that you can predict batting average by blood type or that there are different character traits that you can define by blood type,” said Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. “To me, it lines up with astrology. Some people will say if you’re a Gemini, you’re more aggressive. I know a surgeon that will only operate on certain phases of the moon. But there’s absolutely no scientific evidence.”

In a sense, all this will play out when Matsuzaka faces Hideki Matsui for the first time next season. In Boston and New York, it will be Red Sox pitcher versus Yankee hitter, right-hander versus left-hander, high-priced Japanese athlete versus high-priced Japanese athlete. In Japan, it will be all that and more. May the best Type O prevail.






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