Tama in February 2007, wearing her station master's hat
April 29, 1999 |
Kinokawa, Wakayama, Japan
|Residence||Kishi Station, Kinokawa, Wakayama, Japan|
Early life and adoption
Tama was born in Kinokawa, Wakayama, and was raised with a group of stray cats that used to live close to Kishi Station. They were regularly fed by passengers and by Toshiko Koyama, who was informal station manager at the time. The station was almost shut down in 2004 because of financial problems. Around this time, Koyama adopted Tama. Eventually the decision to shut down the station was withdrawn after the citizens demanded it stay open. In April 2006, the Wakayama Electric Railway destaffed all stations on the Kishigawa Line to cut costs. Station masters were selected from employees of local businesses near each station, and Koyama was officially chosen as the station manager. 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 station master's hat; in lieu of a salary, the railway provides Tama with cat food.
Station master career and honors
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 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. Her new position has an "office"—a converted ticket booth containing a litter box. In January 2010, railway officials promoted Tama to the post of "Operating Officer" in recognition of her contribution to expanding the customer base. Tama will maintain the station master's job while taking over the new job, and is the first cat to become an executive of a railroad corporation.
Her staff consisted of two feline assistant stationmasters, Chibi (ちび, born May 12, 2000) and Tama's mother, an orange tabby cat named Miiko (ミーコ, October 3, 1998 – July 20, 2009). Now only Chibi remains. Tama appeared in a documentary about cats titled La Voie du chat in French and Katzenlektionen in German by Italian filmmaker Myriam Tonelotto, broadcast on European TV channel ARTE in April 2009.
In spring 2009, the Wakayama Electric Railway introduced a new "Tama Densha" (たま電車 Tama train ) train on the line which was customized with cartoon depictions of Tama. In August 2010, the station building at Kishi was rebuilt with a new structure resembling a cat's face. Both the "Tama Densha" refurbishment and station rebuilding projects were overseen by industrial designer Eiji Mitooka.
On January 5, 2012, Tama's official apprentice, named "Nitama" ("Second Tama") was revealed. 
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- "Train station’s popular cat mascot meets likely successor". Kyodo News. The Japan Times. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
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