Stationmaster Cat Draws Tourists

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    Remember our posts about a cat named Tama who was officially named stationmaster at an unmanned station in Wakayama Prefecture? Well, little Tama has proven to be incredibly popular, drawing tourists to Wakayama and generating healthy revenue for the Wakayama Electric Railway. A few days ago, Tama was rewarded with a special office:

    Tama won nationwide popularity with the publication of a book of photos featuring her and intensive media coverage after she was appointed in 2007 as stationmaster of the unmanned station on Wakayama Electric Railway’s Kishigawa Line, which runs between cities of Wakayama and Kinokawa.

    As a result, the number of passengers using the Kishigawa Line increased dramatically.

    The railway company recognized the “efforts” of the 8-year-old cat and promoted the cat to division chief-level in January.

    The company also expressed its appreciation of the cat’s role in drumming up business by transforming a ticket window into the stationmaster’s office.

    In her 1.8-square-meter office equipped with a ventilation fan and a toilet, Tama looked relaxed and satisfied.

    Below are a couple clips from a TV show that did some in-depth coverage of Tama and the Wakayama Electric Railway.

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    Summary of Video Clip 1

    • Tama’s popularity made it necessary for the railway to appoint a human employee to assistant the stationmaster. The assistant, Mr. Nishiyama, helps guide visitors to Tama.
    • The railway has been around for about 90 years, but changing times almost caused the railway to disappear in 2004. However, thanks to the efforts of local citizens, the railway relaunched itself under new management in 2006 as the Wakayama Electric Railway.
    • In January of 2007, the president of the railway decided that Tama, a cat belonging to a shopkeeper at an unmanned station on the line, would be named stationmaster.
    • Stationmaster Tama begins every day with a stretch on the floor of his master’s shop. He then puts on his stationmaster cap and greets customers as they leave and enter the station during the morning rush hour. His master sometimes helps him wave to train passengers.
    • Much of Tama’s day is spent entertaining fans who have come to catch a glimpse of the famous stationmaster. A shop at the station sells a variety of Tama-branded souvenir goods, including buttons, snacks, and a special photo book.
    • When Tama puts his front legs together, the patterns on his fur form a heart shape. It is said that it is good luck for couples to visit Tama and be shown the heart mark.
    • Stationmaster Tama sometimes gives radio interviews and attends local events as a VIP.
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    Summary of Video Clip 2

    • In the second half of the report we are shown the railway’s special trains, starting with a toy-themed train that is playfully decorated with kiddie chairs and even has a baby bed.
    • One section of a train car has toy vending machines. The most popular vending machine sells special Wakayama Electric Railway badges.
    • The toy train isn’t just for tourists : it’s also used during rush hour!
    • The clip ends with some footage of the strawberry-themed train. Wakayama is famous for producing strawberries and the railway has held special strawberry-eating events on the train.
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