Maxwell’s Soap, a California, U.S.-based company that manufactures and sells additive-free, natural soap, is considering a sports tour based in the Shiroyama area of Midori Ward, Sagamihara City, as well as an in-house welfare program. Tomoyuki Okagawa, an acupuncturist and conditioning trainer based in the ward, will host the tour with the cooperation of the Shiroyama Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and assist in coordination and negotiations with sports organizations and various businesses in the city. [Published in the April 13, 2023 issue]
We want to increase local tourism demand through Japanese martial arts and culture,” said Maxwell (Max) Moore, CEO of the company. He is himself interested in Japanese martial arts and culture, including karate and jujutsu, and plans to stay in Shiroyama from April to the end of June while working online. He will experience training with the Shiroyama Kenyuukai (Kendo) and the city’s Kyudo Association while touring various locations. He is looking for a place to base his employees during their stay, and has already narrowed down his choices to five or six locations in the Shiroyama area.
Mr. Okagawa, who met through a mutual acquaintance, has hosted athletes and dignitaries from various countries in the past, and says the challenge is that there are few lodging facilities in the Shiroyama vicinity. Max communicates with the U.S. online, and it will be necessary to secure a place where he can work during his stay in Shiroyama.
Max, a former U.S. Navy veteran, has witnessed firsthand the harsh poverty of the local people in Africa and the Middle East, where he was dispatched as a medic to support special forces. After returning to Japan, he was shocked by the terrible living conditions of people living on the streets of Los Angeles.
In 2013, he started his own company and began making soap with additive-free, natural ingredients that are gentle on the human body and the environment. For every piece of soap sold, the company gives one piece of soap to a person living on the street, and is engaged in other socially beneficial projects.
One of the business objectives is to provide veterans with jobs, and the company currently employs seven ex-servicemen. Many active duty and retired military personnel returning from war suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and depression due to the stress of being constantly exposed to life-threatening situations.
The company’s sports tourism also aims to provide sports therapy for the enjoyment of physical exercise and relaxation of body and mind. Max says, “Kendo and Kyudo require quieting the mind and concentration, which can be expected to relieve stress among employees and friends. Martial arts should help fellow PTSD sufferers,” he says.
Although he had been assigned to Sasebo Air Base (Nagasaki Prefecture) for three years from 1997, this was his first visit to the Kanto area, including Kanagawa Prefecture. He commented on his impression of Sagamihara: “It is safe, moderately urban and moderately rural. There are healthy vegetables and many places to practice martial arts.” “We have been distributing the information to the U.S. through social media, and it has been well received by our employees and friends,” he said.
He also participates in Nordic walking classes held by the NPO Shiroyama Sports & Culture Club Meipuru (chaired by Fumio Hiraguri). There are also plans to interact with the judo and iaido clubs of Nihon Kogakuin College (Hachioji City).
Max says, “It is attractive that there are so many small dojos.” He also commented on his life in Shiroyama, “I feel healthier both physically and mentally. The food is of good quality, and I feel less stressed and more active,” he said, his face beaming.