Tama (cat)

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Station-Master Tama.JPG
Tama in February 2007, wearing her station master's hat
Other name(s) Japanese: たま
Species Felis catus
Breed Calico
Sex Female
Born (1999-04-29)April 29, 1999
Kinokawa, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
Died June 22, 2015(2015-06-22) (aged 16)
Iwade, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
Occupation Station master
Died of apparent heart failure.

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 Prefecture, Japan.[1]

Early life and adoption[edit]

Tama's "office" inside the old Kishi Station in June 2008

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.[2]

The station was almost closed in 2004 because of financial problems. Around this time, Koyama adopted Tama. Eventually the decision to close the station was withdrawn after the citizens demanded it stay open.[3] In April 2006, the Wakayama Electric Railway destaffed all stations on the Kishigawa Line to cut costs.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.[4] 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.

Stationmaster career and honors[edit]

The "Tama Densha" train in April 2009
Kishi Station building, rebuilt to resemble a cat's face, August 2010

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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).

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.[8] 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.[9]

In the media[edit]

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.[10]

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.[11]


Death and enshrinement[edit]

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.[12] 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 spirit goddess Tama Daimyōjin (たま大明神) in August.[13]

After the funeral, Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima and other executives went to the area by Kishi River where Tama was born and selected stones to build her memorial.[14] Tama's name was written in calligraphy by President Kojima and carved by a stonemason. The plaque and a bronze statue of Tama are located in a small Shinto shrine, called Tama Jinja, next to the station.

After the traditional fifty day mourning period, Tama was succeeded by her deputy, Nitama.[15] Nitama's first official duty was to be conveyed to her predecessor's shrine to pay her respects.


Nitama (left) and Tama (right) at announcement of Nitama's apprenticeship

On January 5, 2012, Tama's official apprentice, named "Nitama" ("Second Tama") was revealed.[16] Born in Okayama City in 2010, Nitama was rescued from under a train car and adopted by Okayama Electric Tramway. Nitama trained at Idakiso Station before being chosen as Tama's apprentice.

After Tama's enshrinement in August 2015, Nitama was taken to the shrine to pay her respects and then formally installed as the new stationmaster.

On January 6, 2017, the tenth anniversary of Tama's installment as stationmaster, Yontama ("Fourth Tama"), an eight month old calico was introduced as Nitama's subordinate and the new stationmaster of Idakiso Station, the station Nitama trained at, on Nitama's days off.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wong, Hiufu (24 May 2013). "The cat that saved a Japanese train station: Meet Tama, Japan's cutest stationmaster, and her adorable cat-shaped station home". CNN Travel. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Jim Motavalli (2010-10-05). "Cat named stationmaster". Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  3. ^ Lund, Georgia. "Tama the Cat Drums Up Business for Railway in Japan". website. Yahoo! Business. Archived from the original on 26 September 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "Cat named stationmaster". Japan Probe. 2007-01-14. Archived from the original on 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  5. ^ "Tama is the purr-fect antidote to financial gloom: study". Yahoo! News. 2008-10-05. Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2008-10-05.  (AFP)
  6. ^ "This conductor's got a cat's tongue". IOL. 2008-05-24. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  7. ^ "Promotion for Japan's stationmaster cat". Japan Probe. 2010-01-07. Archived from the original on 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  8. ^ "Stationmaster cat gets a train". japanprobe.com. Archived from the original on 11 July 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2015. 
  9. ^ 世界的鉄道デザイナー水戸岡鋭治が明かす! 新型新幹線「さくら」と「たま駅舎」の秘密 [Worldwide railway designer Eiji Mitooka reveals the secrets behind the "Sakura" shinkansen and "Tama Station" building]. Nikkei Trendy Net (in Japanese). Japan: Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. 14 September 2010. p. 5. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Japanese railway turns to feline 'stationmaster' for help". 2008-05-24. Archived from the original on 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2010-06-22.  (AFP)
  11. ^ Stationmaster Cat: Must Love Cats Animalplanet.com accessed online June 30, 2015
  12. ^ 「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. 
  13. ^ "Tama the cat: 3,000 attend elaborate funeral for Japan's feline stationmaster". The Guardian. 
  14. ^ >"Meet Nitama, the new cat in charge at Japan's Kishi Station". 
  15. ^ "Tama-chan: The cat's miaow". The Economist. 3 July 2015. Retrieved 3 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "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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