Well, they’re not wrong.

Japan has a lot of quasi-holidays, and one of them is Vegetable Day. It’s observed on August 31, or 8-31, because the numbers 8, 3, and 1 can be read in Japanese as ya, sa, and i, and yasai is the Japanese word for “vegetable.”

Since Vegetable Day isn’t an official holiday, students and workers don’t get the day off. Instead, it’s an occasion for supermarkets, restaurants, and nutritionists to have a little pun-based fun in their marketing and offerings. This year, McDonald’s Japan decided to mark Vegetable Day by putting out a tweet saying “Did you know…potatoes are actually vegetables? August 31 is Vegetable Day.” Underneath the text is a picture of a pack of McDonald’s French fries standing in a potato field, with giant-font text encouraging “Let’s eat vegetables.”

“Potatoes are vegetables” might seem like an obvious observation but there’s a bit of a linguistic wrinkle here. The Japanese word for potato is “imo,” with “jagaimo” being the easiest way to specify russet potatoes or similar types (as opposed to, say sweet potatoes). For example, if a Japanese person were talking about the potatoes in a plate of curry rice, or in the traditional simmered dish niku jaga, they’d call those potatoes “imo” or “jagaimo.” Those are also the most common way to refer to whole potatoes harvested from a field or sitting in a market.

“Potato” itself exists in Japanese too, though, as an English loanword. However, it’s usually used to talk about potatoes used in Western-style cooking. French fries, for example, are called “fried potato” (pronounced like “furaido poteeto”) in Japanese. But with French fries being the most popular way to eat Western-style “potatoes” in Japan, and “furaido” taking an extra four syllables to say, a lot of French fry fans simple call them “potatoes” in conversation, so McDonald’s Japan’s assertation that “Potatoes are vegetables” probably sounds closer to “French fries count as vegetables too!” to a lot of deep-fried spud supporters.

Either way, though, the championing of such a deliciously indulgent choice of vegetable on Vegetable Day had a lot of commenters simultaneously chuckling and craving fries.

“Since French fries are vegetables, it’s OK for me to eat them while dieting, right?”
“I make a point of eating French fries regularly, for my health.”
“Ah, so no need to resist the urge to eat them!”
“A high vegetable intake promotes personal well-being.”
“I always suspected French fries were diet food…and burgers [with tomato and lettuce] count as vegetables too, right?”

▼ This is basically a salad bar, right?

It’s worth noting the cultural context that McDonald’s Japan’s message comes in. Unlike school lunch debates in the U.S. where certain parties attempted to count French fries and ketchup as fulfilling vegetable nutrition quotas, it’s widely accepted in Japanese society that French fries are, in fact, not very healthy, and are meant to be more of an occasional indulgence than a major component of your daily diet. You can see similar manifestations of that sort of thinking in how Japan has no shortage of dessert cafes and restaurants specializing in things like pork cutlet, but still a relatively slender population overall.

▼ And McDonald’s Japan itself has both side salads and cups of edamame and corn on its menu.

So it’s pretty clear that McDonald’s Vegetable Day tweet about fries in the stomach was made with tongue in cheek. Still, if you were having trouble between deciding on an order of fries or the new White Chocolate Strawberry Frappe & Macaron Raspberry dessert drink for your next McDonald’s cheat day visit, you now have an excuse to order both, since you’re actually just eating the fries to get your veggies for the day.

Source: Twitter/@McDonaldsJapan via Hachima Kiko
Top image ©SoraNews24
Insert images: SoraNews24, McDonald’s Japan
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