WAKAYAMA – A cat that was “promoted” to stationmaster by a railway company and used to reverse a neglected railroad’s fortunes has become the first inductee to Wakayama Prefecture’s Hall of Fame.
The gimmick involving the cat, named Tama, drew throngs of tourists to the prefecture. The cat has now died.
A copper relief of Tama measuring 35 cm by 45 cm was unveiled at a ceremony at Wakayama Prefectural Library.
The Wakayama Hall of Fame was established by the prefectural government this month to honor people and animals who have played prominent roles in publicizing the prefecture.
The female calico cat was named stationmaster of Kishi Station on Wakayama Electric Railway Co.’s Kishigawa Line in 2007. The cat’s image subsequently was used in promotional activities to draw trade to the line.
Tama was later promoted to “executive officer” and “acting president” of Wakayama Electric Railway. She died of heart failure last June at the age of 16.
Tama originally belonged to the owner of a store near the station in the city of Kinokawa.
Among participants at the relief-unveiling ceremony were Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka and Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima.
“Tama shored up the Kishigawa Line . . . and promoted Wakayama all over the world,” Nisaka said.
“A short while ago, I heard Tama’s voice. She said, ‘I feel embarrassed, but I’m happy (for the Hall of Fame listing),’ ” said Kojima.