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For some reason, when it’s raining cats and dogs, McDonald’s customers in Japan seem to start craving fish.

Whenever McDonald’s Japan rolls out a new menu item, whether it’s a classy Clubhouse Burger or a giant Giga Big Mac, sales are initially inflated as intrigued customers come in to try something new. Then, as the novelty wears off, sales will also see a dip, after which they’ll stabilize at whatever level the product itself dictates.

For items that have been around for decades, like the classic Big Mac, you’d expect demand to be pretty consistent. There’s one McDonald’s Japan menu mainstay, though, which often sees sudden spikes in demand: the Filet-O-Fish. Something similar happens in the U.S., where devout Catholics who forego meat on Fridays during Lent need a non-hamburger dining option. But in Japan, McDonald’s customers get a hankering for Filet-O-Fish when it rains.

▼ Water…water…water…fish?!?

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Numerous prior McDonald’s employees have reported the phenomenon. At some branches, sales of the sandwich can as much as double if it’s wet outside, and apparently some versions of the company’s restaurant employee manual even remind workers to keep an eye on their fish inventories if rain is forecast. The link between Fillet-O-Fish and rainy days is well-known enough that Japanese Internet users and media outlets have been trying to figure out the reason for it, and have so far come up with three theories.

The first possible explanation is that on cold, rainy days, people naturally crave something filling and fortifying, which makes the deep-fried Fillet-O-Fish hard to pass up. The second is that the warm, steamed buns used for the Fillet-O-Fish make diners feel nice and toasty, but the logic behind both of these ideas seems slightly flawed.

First, it’s not like the Filet-O-Fish is the heartiest thing on McDonald’s menu, which boasts any number of hamburgers that are larger and more calorie-intense than the Filet-O-Fish even without being fried. Second, just because it’s raining in Japan doesn’t necessarily mean the weather is cold. As a matter of fact, Japanese winters are usually characterized by sunny but chilly days, while the highest humidity and the greatest number of rain showers comes in hot, sweltering June.

So perhaps the most plausible reasoning is that of actress and singer Tomoe Shinohara, who gave her thoughts on the Filet-O-Fish/rain relationship during an appearance on the Suiyobi no Downtown variety TV program. Shinohara’s theory is that when it rains, a large number of people who don’t ordinarily eat at McDonald’s are going to end up at the Golden Arches anyway. After all, if it’s raining it may be hot or it may be cold, but it’s definitely going to be a pain to go to the grocery store and then cook for yourself, since the vast majority of people in urban and suburban Japan do their shopping on foot.

Likewise, if you’re going out to pick up food but it’s really coming down, odds are you’re going to pick a restaurant that’s close, and given how many branches McDonald’s has, it’s probably one of the closest options, no matter where you are. Oftentimes McDonald’s branches are located within shopping or entertainment complexes attached to train stations, meaning that even during a raging storm you won’t need to use an umbrella.

But you’ll notice those reasons are all based on convenience, not preference. Shinohara’s thinks that a lot of the people who find themselves at McDonald’s on a rainy day aren’t such big meat-eaters or hamburger fans, but just want to get a meal without getting drenched. As such, they’re more likely to choose something that’s not McDonald’s signature menu item (i.e. a hamburger), and instead go with a Filet-O-Fish.

McDonald’s headquarters itself isn’t sure why it sells more fish sandwiches on rainy days, but we have to say that Shinohara’s logic seems sound. And now that we know about this phenomenon, we’re curious to see if it’ll show up in a future episode of McDonald’s recruitment anime.

Source: Narinari
Top image: McDonald’s Japan
Insert images: Wikipedia/Juni from Kyoto, Japan