WAKAYAMA – Tama, a cat “stationmaster” of a railway station in Wakayama Prefecture whose immense popularity helped boost the railway’s revenues and the local sightseeing industry, died Monday at a local animal hospital aged 16 years and two months, the equivalent of about 80 years in human age, the railway said Wednesday.
Tama was a “tourism superstar extremely popular in and out of Japan who contributed greatly to promoting tourism in our prefecture. I am filled with deep sorrow and appreciation,” Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka said in a statement.
According to Wakayama Electric Railway Co., which appointed the female tortoiseshell cat to master of Kishi Station in January 2007, Tama had been recuperating from rhinitis since May. She is believed to have died of acute heart failure.
The day before her death, Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima visited Tama to wish her a speedy recovery. At the time, Tama stood up and let out a strong meow.
Before taking up the company’s post, Tama was kept at a kiosk in front of Kishi Station.
Her cuteness and the novelty of a cat stationmaster turned the money-losing Kishigawa Line into a popular sightseeing spot. The number of passengers on the line jumped to 2.27 million in fiscal 2014 from 1.92 million in fiscal 2005. Photos of Tama and other merchandise also sold well, leading to her appointment to acting president of Wakayama Electric Railway in January 2013.
The railway said it will hold a funeral for Tama on Sunday at her station, with the president serving as chairman of her funeral committee.