Cat conductor Japan

Cat conductor Japan

Only in Japan: a cat as a train conductor! By now I shouldn’t be surprised anymore about all the crazy stuff that happens in Japan, but a cat conductor (or station master as her official title says) was something new. 

Credit: WeLoveTamaChannel

Tama started out as a normal cat from the nearby grocery-store who hung around the station more than she was home. That railway station nearly went bankrupt at the time, losing about ($4m) a year. But even when the last employee had to leave the station, Tama kept hanging around.


Credit: Japancollections

Cat gives railway station new life

And that gave the station master an idea: why not appoint the cat as station master? It was hanging around anyway and maybe it would attract visitors. And that decision turned out to be extremely brilliant: visitors poured in and during the first year ‘on the job’ the passenger numbers rose by ten percent. Tama quickly became Japan’s most famous cat after she was appointed ‘honorary stationmaster’ at the unmanned Kishi station in the rural Wakayama prefecture.


Credit: Animal Planet

Tama economy

Of course they had to make use of the ‘Tama-effect’, and merchandise started flowing. Tama got herself a nice stationmaster’s cap and a ticketbooth got transformed into her personal sleeping spot. The impact on the local economy and the Kishigawa line has been estimated at the stunning amount of $8.9m. Remind yourself this is the effect of a single cat!


Credit: Animal Planet

Tama cat Japan train

After her title was raised to honorary stationmaster, she got promoted to ultra-stationmaster and eventually even to vice president of the railway-firm. During a career of eight years that’s quite something! The people at Kishi station in the mean time had decided to create a Tama-themed cafe, a souvenirshop and even the station got a Tama-makeover. Not to mention the railway itself, with the train being completely tamatized, see below!


Credit: Animal Planet

Tama’s funeral

But, even though a cat can live a long life, she eventually passed away at age 16 of heart failure in Juli 2015. People from all over the country came to pay their last respects, and their numbers were estimated to be around 3000. Incredible huh? The fame of Tama was no less than that of a cultural icon and the callico cat got a traditional Shinto-style funeral on a sunday. She is enshrined at a nearby shrine for cats according to the president of the Wakayama Electric Railway. Below a video of the day Tama’s funeral was held.

Credit: ThePage

Tama’s apprentice

The station’s association with cats won’t end with Tama’s demise. The railway firm said it has chosen an apprentice of the same breed, named Nitama, to replace her. She has some big paw prints to fill!

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