National

Wakayama railway celebrates 10th anniversary of savior feline 'stationmaster'

Kyodo

A railway in Wakayama held an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of a cat’s appointment as “stationmaster,” drawing more than 100 fans of the iconic mascot despite its death over a year ago.

Tama, a female calico cat, was credited with rescuing Wakayama Electric Railway Co. from financial difficulties, as the novelty of a cat stationmaster attracted tourists from across Japan and the world.

The railway company also unveiled its newest feline recruit, Yontama, during the Thursday event. The 8-month-old cat, another calico, will start “working” next week as an apprentice stationmaster at Idakiso Station on the Kishigawa Line in Wakayama Prefecture. She will only be on duty Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Tama became the master of Kishi Station on Jan. 5, 2007. Until its death in June 2015, the cap-wearing Tama entertained many tourists, ensuring the once money-losing Kishigawa Line would survive.

The cat’s success sparked a trend of appointing rabbits, cats, dogs and other animals as stationmasters for financially struggling local railways across Japan to attract passengers and tourists.

“I have been a fan of Stationmaster Tama for more than 10 years,” said Kanna Matsumoto, 22, from Iwade, Wakayama Prefecture. “Yontama is also adorable. I hope she will keep the station lively.”

The event was attended by Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka, Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima and Nitama, Tama’s successor at Kishi Station.

After its death, Tama was given the post of “honorary eternal stationmaster.”

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