Public programs are encouraging more people to migrate from big cities to reverse the persistent population drain plaguing rural areas.

Daisuke Moriyama, 40, quit a major securities company in Tokyo in March 2013 and moved his family to Mitane, Akita Prefecture. Now he commutes from his home to the neighboring village of Ogata, where studies organic farming.

Moriyama thought about moving to the countryside for a career change following the "Lehman shock" of 2008, when the demise of the U.S. investment bank sped up the global financial crisis that damaged banks, companies and economies around the world.