It’s a sad day for cat lovers and trainspotters everywhere. Metro UK reported yesterday that Tama, the Stationmaster Cat, easily the animal most employed by a Japanese rail station, has passed away.
Tama, a camera-friendly calico, began “working” at Kishi Station in 2007 when she was brought in as a mascot for the flagging rail station by the Wakayama Electric Railway. She was appointed “Super Stationmaster,” outfitted with a cat-sized conductor’s cap and was allowed to live at the station. Unsurprisingly, the adorable cat-in-the-hat’s popularity boomed. Located in a more remote part of the city of Kinokawa (in what was once the small town of Kishikowa before the town merged with a number of others to form the modern city), the station was in danger of closing for lack of revenue and interest, but Tama helped turned that around. As her popularity grew, cat fanciers from all over began coming to Kishi Station to see the Super Stationmaster.
In 2008, CNN reported that a University of Osaka study found Tama’s popularity had brought $10 million dollars worth of new revenue to the area. By 2010 the entire station building was rebuilt to resemble a cat, with Tama’s name in big letters over the roof. She was given her own “office” where fans could come and take pictures with her through a viewing window. Pictures of Tama were hung throughout the station, and a cat-themed cafe was opened up. Even a few of the trains themselves were decorated in feline motifs with whiskers painted on the front of the engines, and cartoon cats emblazoned across the rest.
Alas, Tama passed away on Wednesday, June 24th from what was believed to have been acute heart failure. She was what we humans would know as 16 years old, but in the unknowable world of cats, she was an octogenarian. Let’s take a moment to remember Japan’s finest feline Super Stationmaster. Music please.