Trip to Japan captures hearts of Omaha's Friendship Force -
Published Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:06 pm
Trip to Japan captures hearts of Omaha's Friendship Force

The Japanese town of Ooguri and its people still tug at Joy Schaal of Omaha.

She, husband David Schaal and 18 others recently returned from Japan after a 19-day international exchange with Friendship Force of Greater Omaha.

The Friendship Force ambassadors were hosted in homes in Matsuyama, Tsu and Ooguri. The travelers lived one week with their host families to learn about their traditions and culture.

“All of our home hosts had a little bit of English if not excellent English,” said Joy Schaal.

The Schaals experienced Ooguri farm life of raising citrus fruits, tomatoes, cucumbers, rice and “a lot of beautiful flowers,” she said.

“I could certainly live in that little community out in the country,” said Joy Schaal. “They were just very, very opening and welcoming.”

Attending the Autumn Festival, which celebrates the rice harvest, was one of the trip’s highlights.

“We just had an absolute ball,” said Schaal.

Men carried a shrine from the Shinto temple into the town and from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“My husband helped carry the shrine,” she said. It was about 4 feet long, 4 feet wide and 3 feet high.

The children dressed in native costumes, she said, and each area of the town was represented by a different jacket.

Everyone gathered to drink sake and to bring offerings of rice, herbs and vegetables to the shrine, she said.

Day to day, rice was served with meals, which also included vegetables plus barbecued meat or raw fish, she said. Breakfast often was a salad with a sweet roll, she said.

Mom and pop stores sell grocery basics in the village, but families travel to larger towns for supermarket shopping.

Japan was “so green, so beautiful and so clean and spotless,” she said.

During their stay, a typhoon came through, which canceled school, but the children showed up anyway for their presentation for the U.S. visitors. The pupils played music, performed a play, did gymnastics and more.

“They were just so perfectly behaved and so sweet. They were just amazing,” she said.

Schaal, who likes to sew, made tea towels and aprons and brought them as gifts for their hosts. “Japanese women in their homes always wear an apron, even when shopping in supermarkets,” she said.

The couple also brought books about Omaha and Nebraska, T-shirts and hats as gifts.

Besides the home stay in the village, the Schaals and the other travelers also spent time in the cities of Hiroshima and Tokyo, and visited many temples and shrines in Nara, Nagoya, Kyoto and Tokyo.

“I expected Tokyo to be just a mob of people, but it wasn’t,” she said. The trains offered plenty of room to stand although “a lot of people gave us their seats. They were very polite.”

Everywhere, people asked if they could help, she said.

The Schaals organized the trip to Japan, one of several Friendship Force trips they have taken. For more information about Friendship Force of Greater Omaha, visit

Contact the writer: Sue Story Truax    |   402-444-1165

Sue writes obituaries and covers community news and schools for's Living section, primarily Community Connection.

Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Annie, when that girl's hitting the bottle, look out
Blair High senior shows his love of pi by memorizing 1,381 digits
Jon Stewart might be real king of late night
'Tis soon Talk Like Shakespeare Day; hence be mirthful!
Can't find your pet? Social media is there to help
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
From fashion to baskets, a guide to the latest Easter trends
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
This Friday, celebrate Arbor Day where it all began
Why two hotshots ditched six-figure salaries for a life of less
Annie, my boyfriend of 3 years won't invite me to his mobile home
Kooser: 'American Life in Poetry' (April 20)
Swoosie’s voice a joy in memoir of stage, family
It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Want a different garden? Turn to your local greenhouse, nursery
How they met: An Omahan's 50-foot fall was best thing to ever happen to him
Annie, I'm telling you checking out nude bodies online is not porn
How to transform your wall or deck into hanging herb garden
Iowa West Foundation aids Joslyn Art Museum's repairs
Benson Hall of Fame to honor 8 graduates, 2 former educators
Omaha library staffers recommend these books
The World-Herald's weekend event recommendations
Dining review: If you're craving sushi, head to Benson's Taita
< >
Cleveland Evans: From a moody nickname to the Ninja Turtles’ bestie
In honor of April 1, this column’s about Murgatroyd and Amphelisia.
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Meridian Med Spa
50% Off Botox®, Botox® Bridal Party, Fillers and Peels
Buy Now
Jump to a blog:
< >
We Love Weddings blog
W.E. Love Weddings is about everything Omaha and everything weddings by the editors of Wedding Essentials Magazine.
Weddings and engagements
Share your exciting news with your community by placing an announcement today.
Inspired Home Omaha magazine
Sign up today to get the latest edition of Omaha's best magazine for local living, home entertainment, fashion and travel!
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »