Encouraged by the craft beer boom, the city of Tono in Iwate Prefecture has been welcoming outsiders wanting to try new ways to revive its hop-growing industry and transform the community into a "beer town."

Japan imports about 95 percent of hops for domestic beer production from other countries, including Germany. For the remaining 5 percent, Tono plays a key role, providing about 20 percent of the nation's output.

But the hop-farming industry in this city of about 27,000 people, largely unscathed by the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, has been hit by a drop in farmers due to old age, a lack of successors and cheap imports.