Hempstead, NY - Follow the Hofstra Pride Men's Lacrosse Team on a nine-day trip to Tokyo, Japan for the 2012 International Lacrosse Friendship Games. The official International Friendship Games website in Tokyo can also be accessed. A daily combination of several blogs from Hofstra student-athletes and staff, as well as photos (above), will be posted below as they come in from Japan.
Wednesday, May 30
An air of excitement and anticipation surrounds Margiotta Hall as 37 Pride players and seven staff members load luggage into a Hofstra truck and board the Coach USA bus for the trip to La Guardia Airport. Delta Airlines has been great to us and we got off just a little late to Detroit and on-time from Detroit to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda).
Thursday, May 31
With a 13-hour time advantage, the team arrived in Tokyo at 11:30 p.m. local time Thursday night, which is 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning in New York. We are tired but still excited. After meeting some Japan Lacrosse Association dignitaries at the airport, the team boards the bus for a night at the Prince Hotel. Some of the guys went to Roppongi, which is a section of Tokyo's Minato ward famous for its dining and entertainment and geared squarely at visitors from other countries. The rest are looking for a good night of sleep..
Friday, June 1
Our first full day in Japan was a busy day for everyone. We had a team breakfast at the Prince Hotel at 10 a.m. At 11:30, with everyone dressed in business suits, we left the hotel by bus for the trip to the Edogawa City Civic Center for a Welcome Reception hosted by the Japan Lacrosse Association (JLA) and the host families. A very nice affair that was attended by the Honorable Masami Tada, Mayor of Edogawa City. We enjoyed the group photos with the team and dignitaries as well as getting to meet our host families.
The man who was instrumental in putting this trip together and Coach Tierney's teammate from Johns Hopkins, Yusuke Sasaki, IS THE MAN ! He is also Director of the JLA.
We returned to the Prince Hotel around 2:30. The players packed up, checked out and departed the hotel to move in with host families. We will be with the families for two nights before returning to the hotel Sunday night after the contest against the National Team of Japan. While the players depart for dinner with their hosts, the staff stays in the hotel. Tomorrow will be even more busy with the first day of competition against a Tokyo All-Star Team at 11 a.m. and a clinic where more than 200 students are expected to attend.
Saturday, June 2
With the Pride players at host family houses and the staff at the Prince Hotel, the Hofstra team thought it was easier just to meet at the field today at Rinkai Field. There were many great stories from the players of their 'homestays'. Our hosts were gracious enough to take the guys out for the real flavor of Tokyo and not just the tourist areas.
Our game today against the Tokyo Select All-Star team was really, more of a scrimmage that it was a game but it was spirited nonetheless. The players received bandanas from the Tokyo squad and we gave the All-Stars a commemorative Hofstra Lacrosse Japan Tour 2012 tee-shirt. A good time was had by all and, in case you were wondering, no score was kept. Everyone was so happy. It was awesome.
Following the scrimmage, the Pride conducted a lacrosse clinic for 200 budding lacrosse players varying in age but mostly college freshman. Despite the obvious language issues at times, the translator and the game itself broke down any barriers. Our players split up into 11 different teaching stations and did a fantastic job.
At the end of the clinic the Hofstra players gave out clinic prizes, courtesy of our corporate partners and friends at Warrior Lacrosse. Some of the students who attended the clinic left with Warrior sticks, gloves, and stick head. The players are off to another night of "homestays" and more of the flavor of Japan before tomorrow's contest against the Japanese National Team.
Sunday, June 3
Today ended our two nights of "homestays" and we all have great memories and will have many friendships in the years ahead for our trip. The time has arrived for the "main event" of our trip, the contest against the Japanese National Team. While we didn't keep score of our game against the Under 20 Tokyo Select All-Star Team yesterday, apparently the Japanese Lacrosse Association did and published it. While we won easily, we hope the experience the Tokyo All-Stars had will go a long way in their development, individually and as a team. Today's game against the National Team of Japan will be a lot different. Japan is improving in leaps and bounds and we are looking forward to a close game.
The Pride staff arrived at Edogawa Stadium with JLA staff and met the Hofstra team on the field at 11 a.m. with all of our belongings. We would be going back to the hotel tonight. But the Opening Ceremonies of the 23rd International Lacrosse Friendship Games was up first. Edogawa City Mayor Masami Tada and JLA President Hiroshi Kimura, the Japanese Men's National Team, the Women's National A and B squad and Hofstra participating. Coach Tierney spoke for more than three minutes to the crowd of approximately 4,000.
An elementary school band provided pregame music and we thought it was really cool when they played the respective national anthems. Formal pregame introductions had an NCAA Championship Tournament feel.
As expected, the game itself was exciting and a battle. The Japanese National Team was very good and will turn some heads at the next World Championships. You can see that they work hard for excellence. It was a spirited and exciting game and we came out with a hard-fought, 11-10 victory. What a surprise-the Pride was involved in another one-goal decision!
Senior Mike DeNapoli was named the Most Valuable Player and received a special presentation. He also addressed the crowd and thanked them for the award and their support of the game of lacrosse.
Everyone returned to the hotel, showered, changed and attended a farewell dinner with the host families and the Japan team as well. I believe it is the unanimous feeling that we will carry the memories of this trip and the friendships that we made for the rest of our lives. The team had a great time and enjoyed our new friendships a little more after the dinner.
Tomorrow (Monday) is a day of sightseeing before a busy Tuesday with games against three college teams.
Monday, June 4
After the excitement of yesterday's game against the Japanese National Team, Monday was a "down-day" for the Hofstra group. With everybody back together in the Prince Hotel, the team convened at 11 a.m. and took a chartered bus to Kamakura, a city located about 31 miles from Tokyo.
Kamakura has many historically significant Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, some of them, like Sugimoto-dera, over 1,200 years old. Kōtoku-in, with its monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, is the most famous. A 15th century tsunami destroyed the temple that once housed the Great Buddha, but the statue survived and has remained outdoors ever since. This iconic Daibutsu is arguably amongst the few images which have come to represent Japan in the world's collective imagination. Kamakura also hosts the so-called Five Great Zen Temples
The trip was made easier by students from Keio University who came with us on the bus and served as our tour guides. The statue of Amida Buddha, which probably dates back to 1252 in the Kamakura period according to temple records, was a popular photo spot for the group. The group did a walking tour of the temples and shrines and of course, did some souvenir shopping.
We returned to the hotel at approximately 4:15 p.m. and we're all free to grab dinner on our own and get some more flavor of Tokyo tonight. Just a busy Tuesday with three scrimmages/games and a trip to Tokyo Disney on Wednesday remain on our tour before we depart for New York early Thursday morning.
Tuesday, June 5
Today is the last day of games as we face Waseda University, the University of Tokyo and Keio University. Each game will be played with four, 10-minute quarters. You can bet with a day like today everyone will play. The team and staff met for a team breakfast in the hotel before traveling by bus to Oi-2nd Stadium
After a team breakfast in the hotel, the team traveled by bus to Oi-2nd Stadium. The first game was against Waseda University and the Pride came out on top, 9-2. Mike DeNapoli tallied six goals and Lance Yapor, Steve Romano and Korey Hendrickson each added single goals for Hofstra.
After a short rest, the University of Tokyo was our next opponent. It was another spirited contest and the Pride came out on top again, 10-3. Every player had an opportunity to play and our seniors switched up some of their positions. DeNapoli tallied three goals, Ryan Rielly added two and Brad Loizeaux, Tyler Begley, Lance Yapor, Torin Varn and Cole Koesterer scored solo goals.
The last game of the day was against Keio University and we closed out our tour with a perfect 5-0 record with a 9-4 win. Lance Yapor posted three goals, Mike DeNapoli scored two goals and Tyler Begley, Brian Hogan, Rob Bellairs and Anthony Zappone also notched single goals. Like Waseda and Tokyo before them, Keio played their collective hearts out and battled for 40 minutes.
After the final game, all four teams were out on the field exchanging t-shirts, pinnies, lapel pins and even some equipment. Lacrosse makes Friends is the theme of the Friendship Games and we have certainly made our share.
After returning to the hotel, showering and changing, we enjoyed a team dinner, with some of the university students, at Amataro's in Roppongi. Amataro's is one of the most popular Izakaya chain restaurants in Tokyo, which offers affordable food and drink menu as well as all-you-can eat yakiniku/shabu-shabu course at the price of 2,614 yen (approx. $33).
The realization has set in that we have just a little more than a day remaining in our tour and that is sad. But the team is looking forward to seeing Sumo Wednesday morning and Tokyo Disney in the afternoon before we head home early Thursday morning...very early Thursday morning.
Wednesday, June 6
Today (Wednesday) is our last day in Tokyo. The team woke up for an early breakfast at 7 a.m. and then boarded a bus to downtown Tokyo to attend a sumo practice. Upon arrival, the boys and I entered and took our shoes off for the Dojo. The practice facility consisted of a concrete floor lightly covered in clay with a circle in the middle which made up the ring. There were 5 wrestlers, who varied in size, and all were wearing sumo thongs. We watched each of the wrestlers fight against each other and it seemed as if they were doing "king of the hill" so the winner stayed. We were very intrigued to find out how hard they hit each other and the intensity of the matches.
Each match only lasted for about 10 seconds but you could tell it was physically draining. After they practiced wrestling they did conditioning. One wrestler would push another across the ring several times till they could not physically do so. They also did a crouching walk around the circle, which looked very tiring. Concluding the workout they stretched and we were impressed how flexible for how big they are. They also performed a prayer to a shrine set up at the head of the Dojo. One of the wrestlers came up to us after and gave us permission to take pictures with him. It was a great experience and we are all glad we got to see the sumo wrestling in person.
From sumo, we went directly to Tokyo Disney. The team was allowed to split up and report back to the bus by 5 p.m., which gave everyone five hours to enjoy. Everyone had a great time. The ride favorites were Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Tokyo Disney had a lot of similarities as Disney World in Orlando, The trip to Tokyo Disney was even more special to some of the guys who had never visited Disney before.
Tonight is a free night for dinner on our own with an early wake up at 4:00 a.m. We will be meeting our JLA hosts in the lobby at 4:30 a.m. and head over to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) for a 6:55 a.m. departure on Delta. With a stop in Detroit, we should arrive in La Guardia at 9:09 a.m.
Thursday, June 7
After a long day that started in the wee hours of the morning and ended just "four hours" later, the team is back home in New York, safe and sound. The 13-hour bumpy flights and the time change has made most of us look forward to sleep-maybe until next week- in our own beds. But while we are happy to be home, we will never forget the experiences we all enjoyed and the new friendships that were made.
Despite the distance between New York and Tokyo, with email, Facebook and other social media outlets, the world is a much smaller place. I am sure that we will be staying in touch with our friends in Japan in the future and they will be staying in touch with us, as well.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who helped make our trip a memory for a lifetime including: the Japan Lacrosse Association including JLA President Hiroshi Kimura; the Honorable Masami Tada, Mayor of Edogawa City; the Under 20 Tokyo Select Team; the National Team of Japan; the students, players and staffs at Keio, Tokyo and Waseda universities; our host families; our sumo friends; the Prince Hotel; all the volunteers; Delta Airlines; and, especially JLA Director Yusuke Sasaki, who began this tour as Coach Tierney's friend and is a now a friend to us all, as well !
But the BIGGEST thank you is reserved for Drs. Arno and Mindy Fried, whose great generosity made this trip possible. Thank you, thank you, thank you !
Finally, to all the folks who were following the trip to Japan on GoHofstra.com, thank you for reading the blog and viewing the photos. We hope you could read and see how much fun we had.