NB: Some of my earliest blogs no longer have their accompanying images but enjoy the copy!
A couple of years ago when I worked in Manchester, there was a lovely little black cat who lived in Oxford Street station. Every day when i got off the station, I’d keep an eye out for her and give her a stroke because there’s nothing I love more than cats. So, imagine my delight when I discovered that Japan one-upped Manchester’s station cat with its very own station master cat.
Kishi station in Kinokawa city, Wakayama Prefecture, might not be an obvious tourist destination but it is home to a rather special cat. Since 2007, Tama has served as Super Station Master of the station, which is the last stop on the Wakayama Electric Railway. A decade earlier, the train line had been making huge financial losses every year and in an attempt to turn things around, the staff adopted the cute stray calico cat that had been hanging around the local grocery store.
Since Tama’s appointment as station master, Kishi station has unexpectedly become a thriving national tourist destination. People from all across Japan come to the tiny provincial town just to take a photo with her. Tama has even inspired a line of cat-themed souvenirs from tshirts to furniture, as well as a cafe.
It gets better… In 2009, a special cat-themed train was unveiled, much to the public’s delight. Then, in 2010, the station got a makeover with a new structure resembling a cat’s face.
So, what does Tama have to do earn her living as station master of Kishi station? Other than greet customers, she just has to act like any other regular cat, except she gets her own hat and office with a litter box. Her wage is apparently cat food.
From internet celebrities such as Maru to Hello Kitty to the traditional maneki-neko, the story of Tama the station cat just goes to show how unusual Japan’s fascination with cats is. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing at all. Frankly, more stations in the UK should have station cats. Just think how happy the commuters would be! Of course, the cats need to be well-looked after, and this definitely seems to be the case with Tama.
In true weird Japanese advert style, I’ll leave you with an advert for Kishi station, featuring Tama!