KITA-KYUSHU--A tourism department official here who won national fame as the city’s mascot has decided her costume has reached its use-by date and announced her retirement as Luna, the Banana Princess.

Junko Inoue, 31, put her hobby as a cosplayer to good use to promote the city, but will peel off the yellow outfit for good at the end of the fiscal year in late March.

Inoue’s appearances as Luna at events held in and outside the city have been featured many times on both local and national TV and in newspapers, making her the central figure in promoting Kita-Kyushu. She has also appeared multiple times in the city’s tourism promotional videos and helped attract many viewers.

Given her performance, her retirement may come as a shock to many.

During the news conference on Jan. 18 when Inoue announced her decision, she also revealed that she is a mother of three elementary school children, which was a factor in her decision.

“I had the challenge of juggling work and family,” Inoue said. “I was able to continue thanks to all the cheers along the way, but (the project has) produced some results and personnel reshuffling will soon be in process at the end of the fiscal year.”

Inoue used to dress up in costumes with her friends to enjoy Christmas and Halloween. After winning the top prize at a Halloween costume contest held in the city in 2015, she came up with an idea in 2016 to make use of her hobby to promote the city. She wanted to do “something striking with a limited budget,” instead of introducing a “yuru-chara” costumed mascot to represent the city.

The city’s Moji Port is known as the birthplace of street vendors selling bananas for a song. The local history inspired Inoue to try dressing up as Luna, the Banana Princess, a mascot character designed to promote an event at Moji Port. She also made the costume by herself.

With Inoue going into her third year as a member of the Tourism Division, she had been consulting with her higher-ups about her retirement as the mascot for several months, she added.

There were also some opportunities for her children to see their mother at events, but she had to make sure they wouldn’t call her “Mommy” at the venue.

“I had a rare experience to make public appearances even though I am just a staff member. I want to do my best for the last two months,” Inoue continued at the Jan. 18 news conference.

When asked about a possible comeback, Inoue said she couldn’t promise anything at the moment, before adding: “I don’t know whether (my next step) would be something like this, but I want to keep thinking about how I can make use of my experience to contribute to the city.”

As for her costume, Inoue said: “The character will remain after my retirement. If there is someone willing, I’d love to let her take over the role.”

Inoue is scheduled to attend the starting ceremony of a charity walking event taking place in the city on March 11, with additional appearances possible.

Mayor Kenji Kitahashi praised Inoue for her work as Luna, saying: “The promotional effect for the city is immeasurable.

“She literally devoted herself to it and made strenuous efforts, and I’d like to sincerely appreciate her wonderful challenge.”