posted 03.18.11 at 1.17 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Japanese Lacrosse Team Tours U.S. with Homeland at Heart

The Keio High School lacrosse team's U.S. tour included a stop in New York to face sister school Keio Academy.

A Japanese high school boys' lacrosse team touring the U.S. practiced Friday at Homewood Field and stopped at US Lacrosse to visit the Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame and have lunch with US Lacrosse chief executive officer Steve Stenersen.

For the Keio High School players -- preparing for games in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor against St. Paul's, Boys' Latin, St. Albans and Loyola Blakefield -- the lacrosse field seems to be their only escape from the disturbing images on television and in newspapers of the devastation in their homeland. The epicenter of the March 11 earthquake that has left much of Japan's Pacific coast in shambles and led to the confirmed death of nearly 7,000 people was near Sendai, about 185 miles north of Tokyo.

Keio High School is located in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo.

"We had a really difficult decision to make," Keio coach Tomonao Hashimoto said of potentially canceling the team's trip to the U.S., which commenced at the beginning of the week with a game at sister school Keio Academy in New York. "But we have to move forward. Japan is standing and moving forward now. We decided we should come here. We should not quit."

Hashimoto said the team flew out of Haneda Airport, which was "really hard to access" due to foreigners trying to leave Japan. But the Japenese people, Hashimoto said, have tremendous resolve.

"A lot of the TV news we watch here makes us sad," he said, "and anxious to return."

Speaking to reporters Friday, Stenersen said there is a "strong, long-standing friendship" between US Lacrosse and the Japanese Lacrosse Association.

"This is an incredible culture," he said, "because they are very poised and in control all the time."

Speaking to the players, Stenersen said, "We want to wish the best for great competition and a great experience in the United States."