Tama – the cat who saved a Japanese railway line

By her presence alone, Tama the cat revitalized a failing railway line at Kishi Station in Japan. In 2007 the CEO of Wakayama Railway, Mitsunobu Kojima, met a local of the area who had just lost her home.

They pleaded with Kojima to take in their cat, so that at least one of them would not be homeless. Kojima decided to let Tama the cat, live at the station.

This turned out to be a great decision for both the cat and the station, as now that Kishi had a feline resident, people from all over Japan wanted to come visit her.

Station Master Tama

After seeing the popularity that Tama brought to the station, Kojima officially appointed her Station Master of Kishi. Her main duty is to greet passengers on top of a custom table set up for her outside the station.

According to a study in 2008, in just one year since she began her duties the railway line brought in 55,000 more passengers than expected.

To capitalize on how much everyone loved Tama, the station hired an industrial designer in 2010 to make the place more ‘Tama-esque’.

A building shaped like a cat's face with people in the back and foreground.
The station was designed and built to look like a cat’s face. Pic credit: @hirorin0505/Wikipedia.

From 2010 onward, the railway line was re-named the Tamaden line in honor of the feline, who was now the newly titled Super Station Master.

The new design of the building included two carriages outfitted with Tama-themed interior and exteriors, as well as an office just for Tama so that she could rest in between her greeting duties.

A train carriage designed with a calico cat theme.
The exterior of a Tama-themed carriage at Tamaden. Pic credit: @E56-129/Wikipedia.
A calico cat sleeps in a cat bed with the words "Super Station Master Tama" above.
Super Station Master Tama rests in her office. Pic credit: @NY066/Wikipedia.

A legacy continues

Unfortunately, Tama passed away in 2015.

It is estimated that Tama brought in upwards of 1.1 billion yen during her 8 year career at the station.

Thousands of people attended Tama’s funeral which was held at the station, and there she was elevated to the rank of “Honourable Eternal Station Master”.

The station also added a shrine to allow visitors to pay their respects.

But her legacy continues on in little cat Nitama, an apprentice who trained under Tama and took her place once she was gone.

Two calico cats being held beside each other. The one on the right is dressed up in a Station Master's costume.
Nitama on the left being held beside Tama on the right in full regalia when she was still alive. Pic credit: @Takobou/JapaneseWikipedia.

And so, although Tama is no longer with us, she will never be forgotten.

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