As Japan’s fisheries industry strives to cultivate Southeast Asian markets to make up for declining demand at home due to a shrinking population, it is receiving a big welcome in Thailand.

Japanese marine product exports to Thailand amounted to 23.5 billion yen ($158 million) in 2022, up 14.6% from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The value was only 27% of that of Japan’s marine product exports to China. It was also less than the value of exports to the U.S. and Taiwan.

During the past couple of decades, Thais have demonstrated a growing affinity for Japanese foods. Thailand had 5,325 Japanese restaurants in 2022, a sharp increase from 745 in 2007, according to the Bangkok office of JETRO, Japan’s trade promotion organization.

“There is data showing that Thais’ second favorite cuisine is Japanese, after Thai,” said Hiroki Taniguchi, a JETRO director in Bangkok.

The strength of Japanese fish is its high quality, including its freshness. A seafood item that was particularly popular at the Uoriki store in Bangkok was farm-raised salmon from Aomori prefecture in northern Japan. Many shoppers were buying fillets and sashimi of the fresh salmon.

Naotomo Nakahara, a professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, sees signs that the region’s appetite for Japanese seafood will grow.

“Southeast Asia,” he said, “has factors that can be expected to increase demand for Japanese fresh fish, such as growing consumer purchasing power and the increasingly diverse desires that go with economic development, not to mention improved infrastructure that supports [cold chain] transportation, which can keep food fresh.”