Photo/IllutrationAn “udon” noodle restaurant in Indonesia (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japanese food is booming in popularity worldwide, with the number of restaurants serving the cuisine outside the country up by 30 percent in the last two years, agriculture ministry figures have revealed.

The ministry’s own biennial survey found there were 118,000 Japanese restaurants around the world as of October.

The fastest growth occurred in Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American countries, with each of those regions’ quantities of Japanese food eateries increasing by 50 to 60 percent since 2015.

The ministry, which released the survey results on Nov. 7, collected the data via 238 Japanese embassies and consulates around the world.

Staff in those offices counted establishments listed in local telephone directories and on restaurant websites. The painstaking effort led to the record total, up from 89,000 in 2015, and more than double the figure of 55,000 recorded in 2013, the first year the survey was conducted in this method.

Across Asia, excluding Japan, there were 69,300 Japanese restaurants in October this year, an increase of 24,000 compared with the 2015 tally. North America posted a modest increase of 200, to 25,300, and in Europe, 1,650 outlets were added, taking the continent’s total to 12,200.

By country, China had the highest number of Japanese restaurants at 40,823, and the United States was second, with 22,890.

The ministry said it intends to promote food exports for Japanese restaurants, and it is requesting trade partners to ease import restrictions.

The Malaysian government lifted a seven-year ban on Japanese beef imports on Nov. 7. One condition is that cows be farmed and meat processed according to Islamic teachings.

The United States has agreed to simplify procedures for visitors to Japan to take beef products home with them as souvenirs, according to the ministry.