"The conversation started out along the usual lines, "What's your blood group? Where do you live? Are you single".
And that's it. There is no explanation of why "What's your blood group?" would be an acceptable, never mind a common, conversation starter in Japan.
I've been wondering about this for the past few days and finally got round to googling it tonight. Fortunately, this old Indepedent article explains all. It turns out that the Japanese believe that each blood group has a corresponding personality type. I'm O which means that in Japan I would be expected to be outgoing and laid-back. I could live with that.
The article doesn't say whether or not rhesus factor is important in Japan. For the record I'm O- so I am a universal donor. This is quite academic however since the Agence Française du Sang politely declines my blood. It believes that I have a high risk of developing Creutzfeld-Jakob disease having lived in Britian in the early eighties.
The downsides of being O- are
a) that I had to have injections throughout my pregnancies because P. is O+ (really a very minor inconvenience when one thinks of the problems that those tiny jabs might be solving).
b) that I can only receive blood from another O- donor, and there aren't that many of us (only 6% of the French population is O- ). So if you're one of us, what are you waiting for? Get down to your local blood transfusion place and fill up my stocks.
Update: Wayne kindly e-mailed me with the passage in his book that I had mangled beyond all recognition. It reads:
"Students spend most of the time asking me the kind of questions one might expect in Japan on the first meeting: What’s your blood type? Do you like sushi? Do you like natto? Are you married? How old are you? Can you speak Japanese? Where are you from? Does everyone have gun in America? (They tend to drop indefinite articles.)"