KURITA Momono was born and raised in Sabae City. Momono was saddened by what was happened around her hometown: business and shops were constantly being closed and local festivities were being reduced, and it was evidently losing its soul.
Then five years ago, at senior high school, Momono found out about the city's plan to establish a group called "Team JK" which would recruit high school girls to take the lead in reviving the community. With the desire to make a contribution to her hometown of Sabae, Momono decided to join the team.
In just one year, Momono and the other girls launched more than 20 ideas and activities which includes developing an app. This app allows users to check the availability of desks at the library, work with a local confectionery shop on new dessert ideas, or carry out community clean-up activities to collect garbage in a fun way.
She also established a group called "Team JKOG" to help promote Team JK, where she actively goes on radio to promote local attractions, whilst continuing to contribute to her hometown. Now working full-time as the proprietress of her family's Japanese restaurant, Momono is looking forward to running as a torchbearer to bring the lively spirit back to her hometown of Sabae.
Tell us about your involvement with Team JK
All the Team JK activities were fun. I especially remember that all the criticisms directed towards us turned into support a year later. I'm really happy that many people now associate Sabae City with Team JK.
What are your thoughts about being a resident of Sabae City?
It makes me happy that people I meet tell me that they are familiar with Sabae. Because the town is famous for eyeglasses, one day, a restaurant customer told me, "Team JK is from Sabae, isn't it?"
I'm proud that I was part of Team JK because Team JK helped raise people's awareness of Sabae.
What have you gained through your involvement with Team JK?
I was able to expand my network and met a lot of residents via our activities. These are people with whom I would normally will never have contact with as a high school student. I've kept in touch with them even after I graduated. The friendships I've gained along the way is what I cherish most about my time with Team JK.
Now as the head of your family restaurant, what do you care most about?
To understand the emotions and desires of the customers. I always try very hard to notice what the customers want and provide the best possible service and hospitality. Also, never forget to smile!
Can you tell the world about the charm of Sabae City?
Sabae is a small city, but we have thriving traditional industries and it's a great place to live. The citizens are active and I'm proud of my hometown. I will carry the passion of the Sabae citizens through the Olympic flame!