Tama in February 2007, wearing her station master's hat
April 29, 1999|
Kinokawa, Wakayama, Japan
|Died||June 22, 2015
Tama (たま?, April 29, 1999 – June 22, 2015) was a female calico cat who gained fame for being a station master and operating officer at Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line in 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, the 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 Eventually the decision to shut down the station was withdrawn after the citizens demanded it stay open.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 5, 2007, railway officials decided to officially name Tama the station master. As station master, her primary duty was to greet passengers. The position came with a station master's hat; in lieu of a salary, the railway provided 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 was "the only female in a managerial position" in the company. Her new position had 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 maintained the station master's job while taking over the new job, and was the first cat to become an executive of a railroad corporation.
Her staff consisted of two feline assistant stationmasters, Tama's sister, 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. Tama was also featured on the Animal Planet Series, Must Love Cats where the host, John Fulton, honored her with a visit and a song.
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.
Tama died on June 22, 2015, of apparent heart failure at the age of 16 - the equivalent of about 80 human years, at an animal hospital in Wakayama Prefecture. After her passing, thousands of her fans from all over Japan came to pay their respect. She was honored with a Shinto-style funeral at the station and was given the posthumous title, "Honorary Eternal Stationmaster." She was enshrined at a nearby Shinto cat shrine as goddess Tama Daimyōjin in August.
Tama was succeeded by her deputy, Nitama.
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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.
- 「たま駅長」死ぬ―和歌山電鉄の名物駅長、心不全で １６歳、人間なら８０歳 ２８日に社葬 [Stationmaster Tama dies at age of 16]. Sankei West (in Japanese). Japan: The Sankei Shimbun & Sankei Digital. 2015-06-24. Retrieved 2015-06-24.
- "Tama the cat: 3,000 attend elaborate funeral for Japan’s feline stationmaster". The Guardian.
- "Tama-chan: The cat’s miaow". The Economist. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
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