Ja­pan mourns the pass­ing of Tama, the ‘cat sta­tion­mas­ter’


Tama the sta­tion­mas­ter, Ja­pan’s fe­line star of a strug­gling lo­cal rail­way, was mourned by com­pany of­fi­cials and fans and el­e­vated into a god­dess at a fu­neral Sun­day.

The cal­ico cat was ap­pointed sta­tion­mas­ter at the Kishi sta­tion in western Ja­pan in 2007. In her cus­tom-made sta­tion­mas­ter’s cap and a jacket, Tama qui­etly sat at the ticket gate wel­com­ing and see­ing off pas­sen­gers. The cat quickly at­tracted tourists and be­came world­fa­mous, con­tribut­ing to the rail­way com­pany and lo­cal econ­omy.

Tama died of a heart fail­ure on June 22. Dur­ing Sun­day’s Shin­tostyle fu­neral at the sta­tion where she served, Tama be­came a god­dess. The Shinto re­li­gion has a va­ri­ety of gods, in­clud­ing an­i­mals.

Wakayama Elec­tric Rail­way Pres­i­dent Mit­sunobu Kojima thanked the cat for her achieve­ment, and said Tama will be en­shrined at a nearby cat shrine next month.

Be­fore Tama’s ar­rival, the lo­cal Kishi­gawa Line was near-bank­rupt; and the sta­tion was un­manned as it had lost its last staff.

Kojima said ap­point­ing Tama as sta­tion­mas­ter was ini­tially an ex­cuse to keep the cat at the sta­tion.

“But she was re­ally do­ing her job,” he said. The rest was a mir­a­cle, and his com­pany’s suc­cess story also gave hope for dozens of other strug­gling tiny lo­cal train lines, he said.

“Tama-chan re­ally emerged like a sav­ior, a god­dess. It was truly my honor to have been able to work with her,” Kojima said in his speech.

Dur­ing her ten­ure, Tama had con­trib­uted an es­ti­mated 1.1 bil­lion yen ($8.9 mil­lion) to the lo­cal econ­omy, Kojima said.

Kojima said that when he vis­ited Tama at an an­i­mal hos­pi­tal the day be­fore she died, the cat woke up and reached out to him with her paws, as if ask­ing for a hug, and looked straight into his eyes. He said he told Tama to get well so they can celebrate the cat’s up­com­ing 10th an­niver­sary as a sta­tion­mas­ter, and said the cat re­sponded with a “meow.”

Tama had climbed the cor­po­rate lad­der from sta­tion­mas­ter to “ul­tra­sta­tion­mas­ter” and vice pres­i­dent of the com­pany be­fore re­ceiv­ing the ad­di­tional ti­tle Sun­day of “hon­or­able eter­nal sta­tion­mas­ter.”

She will be suc­ceeded by another cal­ico cat, Ni­tama, now an ap­pren­tice sta­tion­mas­ter.


Peo­ple pray in front of an al­tar spe­cially set up for a fu­neral of Tama, a cat sta­tion­mas­ter, in Kinokawa City, Wakayama Pre­fec­ture, Ja­pan, Sun­day, June 28.

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