Well, things seem to be just taking off now. There are some "Brewfests" in Japan that are seeing more and more people every year. The magazine I linked above is also only about three years old. One problem is that in order to make "Beer" in Japan (and sell it) you need to have a brewery that can produce at least 60,000 liters a year. Which is a tall order for a small business. I think they do this because the Gov. is almost entirely controlled by the big corporations and they want to protect their profits, but whatever.
But as with most things here it all comes down to legal definitions. According to the Gov. only beer made with 67% or more malted barley counts as "Beer" . So if you use corn, rice, wheat, sugar, etc. you can make what we would call beer but is still not Beer.
They would call it "Happōshu".
According to the Japanese Gov. Malt Extract is Not malt
So if you make an all grain, take some of the wort, dry it, then add the water back when boiling you are ok.
If you want to start a happōshu brewery the minimum capacity required is like 6,000 liters (I have heard of people getting a licence with less but I'm not sure how yet).
So, once people started to realize that you could do this and get around a stupid law (only there to keep corporate profits up, and money flowing into politician's pockets) They started building craft breweries that only make 'happōshu' but rock out brews better than anything the big 4 are pumping out. And once they make a name for themselves and can ramp up production it is much easier to get the full 'Beer Brewery' licence.
So now we are starting to see smaller micros popping up and local beer starting to get into a new Japanese Renaissance.
I can personally recommend quite a few:
Kaze no Tani no Biru, or "Beer of the Valley of the Wind" (seriously)
In fact a friend of mine who does tours for Japanese language students is running a two day 'Brewery Tour' next month.
So things are looking up. Now all we need to do is get the stupid 1% law overturned and people can really start to learn about good beer here.