All About Japan

The Station Master Cats

| Trains , Wakayama

In 2004, Kishi Station faced the possibility of closure due to a lack of passengers. Tama, a calico cat adopted by the owner of a grocery store next to the station, began hanging around the station hoping to glimpse the passing trains. She never imagined she'd become the savior of the station and its parent company, Wakayama Electric Railway!

Located in Kinokawa City, Wakayama Prefecture, Kishi Station is the last stop on the 14.3-kilometer (9-mile) Kishigawa Line, the only line operated by Wakayama Electric Railway. Tama the cat was appointed Station Master at Kishi Station in January 2007—and is said to have brought the economic effect of 1.1 billion yen (US$9.7 million) that year alone. She's credited with helping to increase the number of customers on the line by 17 percent from 2005 (1.92 million) to 2013 (2.24 million).

With merchandising and media coverage, Kishi Station quickly became a popular tourist destination in Japan. In August 2010, the station building was even rebuilt to resemble its feline savior.

Tama served her role until June 22, 2015, the day she passed away. During her tenure, the train company changed her title multiple times from Station Master to Super Station Master, Executive Officer, Deputy of the President, Ultra Station Master and finally Honorable Eternal Station Master, her posthumous title.

Her funeral was held by Wakayama Electric Railway with 3,000 attendees. She was 16 years old, the equivalent of 80 human years.

Nitama

On August 11, 2015, another calico cat was appointed the successor to Tama and became the second station master at Kishi Station. Nitama (meaning Second Tama) worked with Tama as a deputy since January 2012, and it was only natural for Wakayama Electric Railway to offer her the job.

Selected due to her sociability, familiarity with the role, and willingness to wear the stationmaster hat, if you'd like to visit, her shift has been set from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with Mondays and Thursdays off.