In April 2006, the Wakayama Electric Railway converted all stations on the Kishigawa Line from manned to unmanned in an effort to cut costs. Station masters were selected from employees of local businesses near each station. For Kishi station, Toshiko Koyama, the neighborhood grocer, was selected as station master. Koyama had adopted Tama and other stray cats, and he fed them at the station.
In January 2007, railway officials decided to officially name Tama the station master. As station master her primary duty is to greet passengers. The position comes with a stationmaster’s hat; in lieu of a salary, the railway provides Tama with free cat food.
The publicity from Tama’s appointment led to an increase in passengers by 17% for that month as compared to January 2006; ridership statistics for March 2007 showed a 10% increase over the previous financial year. A study has estimated that the publicity surrounding Tama has contributed 1.1 billion Yen to the local economy. In January 2008, Tama was promoted to “super station master” in a ceremony attended by the president of the company and the mayor; as a result of her promotion, she is “the only female in a managerial position” in the company…
Tama the Stationmaster Cat, with information placards about her train, “Tama Densha” (たま電車, Tama railcar/train)
The plan for the train (shown above) includes photo booths in which one can take and print cute Tama-themed purikura photos, vending machines for souvenir badges, cat-themed furnishings, a library of children’s books, and other amenities.
Here’s the train in real life. It began running in spring 2009.
From Wikipedia: “Tama wears a decoration of ‘Wakayama de knight’ (a pun, ‘It got to be Wakayama’ in Japanese) given by Governor of Wakayama”
Tama’s comfortable stationmaster’s room, converted from a ticket office, includes sleeping quarters and a litter box, which is hidden away to give Tama appropriate privacy.
There’s also a Tama-themed Osaka-Ryobi bus!
- Cuteness for the Day: Stationmaster Tama and the deer of Nara
- The Coolest (or at least the Cutest) Train Car in the World: Wakayama Electric Railway’s Tama Densha Cat Train
- Cat named stationmaster of unmanned station on the Wakayama Electric Railway
- Stationmaster Cat Draws Tourists
Click the link to see two YouTube clips filled with feline cuteness (Japanese-language).
- Stationmaster cat gets a train
- Wakayama Electric Railroad (Japanese-language)
See: Tama the Station Master on Facebook.