Tama the stationmaster was a well known sight to visitors at the Kishi railway station in Western Japan. Hired in 2007, she was appointed as stationmaster in 2007 and received her very own stationmaster's uniform - a cap and a jacket. Sitting quietly at the gates to Kishi railway station, she would greet and see off passengers to the station diligently everyday like most stationmasters would.
But Tama was no ordinary stationmaster - she was a cat. Her "service" to Kishi railway station soon became world famous.
Legend has it that Tama drew in enough curious tourists and passengers to the station that her employer went from near-bankrupt to profitable. Tourism flourished and even the local economy in Tama's town felt the effects of her popularity.
On 22nd June last Sunday, Tama passed away in hospital of heart failure. After her death, Tama's employers held a short Shinto-style funeral at the station where she served, where Shinto priests elevated Tama to a "goddess".
Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima thanked the cat for her "service", and said Tama would be enshrined at a nearby cat shrine next month.
“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 eulogy to the cat.
During her tenure, Tama had contributed an estimated 1.1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to the local economy.
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 “ultra-stationmaster” 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.