It is Friday night and a speed dating session is under way in a hotel in the heart of Orchard Road.
The scene is a familiar one: hopeful singles sitting at tables, tucking into a dinner of salmon or chicken as they initiate conversation.
The ice-breaker this time, however, is a “bloody” one. Singles go around trying to guess each other’s blood type or readily disclose their own blood type to each other as a form of introduction.
In the last one or two years, dating agencies have been organising such gatherings for young people interested in selecting a partner based on certain niche markers of compatibility: blood type, zodiac sign, numerology, financial planning or entrepreneurial traits, or even genes.
In Japan, using blood type to predict a person’s character or personality is as common as going to a fast-food restaurant. Dating services use it to make matches and employers use it to evaluate suitable job applicants.
It is widely believed that more than 90 per cent of Japanese know their blood type, with former prime minister Taro Aso even including the fact that he is a Type A in his official profile online.
Yet the association of blood type to personality is akin to the equally unscientific use of astrological signs to predict behaviour. The science of genetic or DNA-matchmaking is equally dubious and controversial, say scientists, though it is purportedly based on research.
“There has been a rising interest in these niche markers of compatibility because young people either believe in them or they like the novelty of it and don’t mind trying it out to see if it works,” said Michelle Goh, founder of dating agency CompleteMe.
People with Type O are said to be self-confident, outgoing and passionate, while Type B are said to be highly independent and creative. So certain combinations, such as an O male and B female pair, are apparently more likely to result in marriage.
Last year, CompleteMe organised dating events based on zodiac signs every month of the year. The event in June, for instance, was catered to Geminis and those said to be compatible with them. About 150 people turned up for the events last year.
This year, the agency has been running blood type and numerology sessions, where birth dates are used to find the best matches.
Come November, saliva samples of singles will be obtained and CompleteMe will work with GENEnova, a local DNA matchmaking company that started operations this year, to send these samples to the Genome Institute of Singapore.
The DNA will be sequenced and singles will find out how compatible they are with others based on their genetic make-up and meet up with them in December (See report below).
Other dating agencies, such as One Plus One, Lunch Actually and Love Express, are similarly offering to pair up singles based on particular traits that they prioritise in their partners in order to determine compatibility.
Love Express has been getting singles to talk about their attitudes towards money from the get-go. They meet for the first time to play a “cashflow game”, a board game where they ponder over the principles of savings, investments and insurance.
Perhaps sparks may fly between those who are financially prudent or between those who are more of a spender than saver, said Deon Chan from Love Express.
“Through these niche events, singles are trying to find a match that suits them and meets their needs, financial or otherwise,” she added.
Lunch Actually held an “entrepreneurial game” session this month for entrepreneurs or aspiring ones to meet each other.
These people in business teamed up with like-minded friends to challenge themselves with drawing up contracts, breaking even and strategising on how to scale the business to the next level.
Violet Lim, chief executive of Lunch Actually, said: “Events based on specific compatibility markers such as blood type or DNA would entice some singles to take a look. But we always match (singles) based on compatibility in values, such as their attitude towards finance or goals.
“These are the things that would matter to create a happy relationship in the long run.”
The preoccupation with blood in Japan dates back to 1927, when a professor at Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s School published a paper titled The Study Of Temperament Through Blood Type.
In 1971, a journalist in Japan helped popularise the blood type personality theory when she published a bestseller on it.
However, Dr Daryl Tan, a haematologist, said there is very limited research on this topic and there has not been any statistically significant evidence to support the association between blood type and personality.
He said: “I don’t think it is a good idea for young people to use this as a basis of compatibility. By limiting their choices, they may actually lose out and this will certainly be detrimental to them socially.”
Chin Wen Wei, 38, an auditor, said his former supervisor also tried to matchmake him with some female colleagues who had the same blood type as him.
He said: “I was surprised as I wasn’t aware of the theory then. I came for this dating event to see if it works but to me, blood type is only a reference as everyone is unique in their own way.”
Text: Janice Tai / The Straits Times / October 2019