Did you know there's a station with a cat as its station master in Japan? If you head to the Wakayama Dentetsu-Kishigawa Line's Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture, you'll come face-to-face with the cat(s) that have run it since 2007! Once just your everyday cats living at the neighboring store, are now famous across Japan. Let's take a dive into the story behind why Tama became the station master, and also talk about the natural life span of these cute cats.
Up Until Tama Became Station Master
When learning about Tama for the first time, everyone's initial thoughts are probably something along the lines of "How and why did a cat become a stationmaster?". Let us explain why.
Before becoming the station master, Tama lived in the neighboring store's cat house. Tama was gentle, calm, and a kind cat, almost like an idol for the station, spending his time alongside the passengers using the train line waiting for their next train to arrive.
However, suddenly, Tama was evicted from the neighboring store's cat house.
Due to the Wakayama Dentetsu-Kishigawa Line being a local line, it was constantly in the red, however, after pleas from the locals and the work of the succeeding business owner, the continuance of the line was set in stone. However, the land on which Tama made his home became public land, forcing Tama to have to move.
Without a home, Tama would be sat roadside without a home or place to go. The shop's owner, troubled with what she must do with Tama, decided to take matters into her own hands.
The Words that Moved the Company President...
This is a story that took place on April 1st, 2006, during a memorial ceremony for the opening of the Wakayama Electric Railway. As the president of the company, Mitsunobu Kojima was about to head home, the owner of the store called out in a bellowing voice! "Mr. President! Mr. President! Don't leave yet! What about Tama!" After hearing about Tama, the president wasn't able to just leave, so he went to meet the cat.
The second Mitsunobu Kojima met Tama, he knew he wanted to offer him a position at his station. However, it wasn't possible to raise a cat in a public station... so, he would have to make the cat not a pet, but an employee, and thus, Tama became station master.
The shop owner was overjoyed by this proposal. Thus, on January the 5th, 2007, Tama became the first-ever cat station master in the entire world, beginning his shifts.
The Tama Stationmaster - From Station Idol to Japan's Super Cat!
Tama's existence and work started to become common knowledge across Japan. In a flash, media were at the station, and locals who didn't use the line previously were suddenly queuing out of the station alongside visitors from across Japan! The station's loveable cat brought about many people creating an unprecedented cat boom! After Tama worked at the station for a single year, the total economic effect was said to be a whopping 1,100,000,000 yen.
As time passed, so did Tama's influence, with the "Tama Train" having illustrations of Tama on it, official Tama products, the "Tama Museum" which was created in the shape of a cat's face and more started appearing, one after another, eventually becoming known as the acting president in 2013. Tama, who was once a simple idol of the station, had turned the station's profits around, and become the station super cat!
Rumors of a cat working at a train station began to make their way overseas, seeing a large increase in visitors from surrounding Asian countries visiting. Offers from a French Film known as "La Voie du Chat" came in, even seeing Tama become Japan's "Cat Actress".
A Farewell to Tama Station's Station Master - A World Surrounded in Sadness
On June 22, 2015, due to acute heart failure, Tama lost her life. Over 3,000 people attended the company funeral. Many overseas media visited, with people across the globe mourning the loss of Tama the Stationmaster.
After Tama passed, she was made the eternal station master. If you visit Kishi Station today, you'll find a shrine dedicated to Tama the cat, where the spirit of Tama has been deified. It's said that Tama the cat is protecting visitors of the station even to this day.
Meet Nitama and 4Tama! - Let's Use the Wakayama Dentetsu-Kishigawa Line
Nitama, Tama's 2nd Station Master was Tama's subordinate and can currently be found at Kishi Station, while Yontama can be found at Idakiso Station (Kishi Station on Wednesday and Thursday). Make sure to check their schedule before visiting using the Wakayama Dentetsu-Kishigawa Line so you can meet them! You're sure to relax both body and mind with the soft winds and cool breeze alongside these cute and cuddly stationmasters.
Kishi Station Information
- Address：Kishigawacho Kodo, Kinokawa, Wakayama
- Caution：There is no car park available.