Regular readers of this site are well aware of Tama, the stationmaster cat that has drawn thousands of tourists to Wakayama and boosted the local economy by an estimated 1.1 billion yen. This post is about two other rural railways that have officially appointed animals as stationmasters in an attempt to copy the success of Tama.
First we have Maron, a Yorkshire terrier who is the stationmaster of Okunakayama-Kougen Station on the Iwate Ginga Railway Line. Those who prefer dogs to cats will probably find Maron a more appealing stationmaster than Tama, and he does seem to have the advantage of being able to wear a cooler uniform. Earlier this month, Kodansha published a photo book for Maron fans, and they’ve also made him a fancy official homepage (complete with a Stationmaster Maron movie).
The other animal stationmaster is Bus, who works at Aizu Ashinomaki Onsen station on the Aizu Railway in Fukushima. Bus, a stray cat taken in by railway workers 9 years ago, spends most of his days sleeping in the station’s waiting room. Since naming Bus a stationmaster earlier this year, the railway has reported a 6.3% increase in ridership. They’ve also started selling Bus keychains and have launched an official Bus blog.
Below is an FTV news report about Bus that includes footage of the other two famous stationmaster animals:
Categories: Animal Videos
Here is an artist’s depiction of the Tama train:
The train will have cartoon Tamas painted all over it, and its interior will feature photo booths where one can take and print cute Tama-themed purikura pics. The special Tama train will begin service in spring 2009.
The Wakayama Electric Railway Co. was in serious financial trouble a couple years ago, but their brilliant decision to make a cat named Tama the official stationmaster of Kishi Station has drawn in thousands of visitors from across Japan. The PR move saved the railway, and one expert even claims that Tama the cat’s popularity has boosted the local economy by 1.1 billion yen (about 10 million dollars):
The mascot’s estimated economic impact on the area in a one-year period reached ¥1.1 billion, says professor Katsuhiro Miyamoto of Kansai University Graduate School.
Miyamoto on Friday released an estimate showing that, in the one-year period since January 2007, when Tama first began “working” for the station, the number of passengers on the Kishigawa Line rose by 55,000 and that corresponding freight revenue climbed ¥15 million.
Photo collections and related merchandise featuring Tama grossed ¥27 million, and she is also credited with boosting tourism in nearby Wakayama City.
To mark the announcement of Tama’s amazing economic impact, FTV visited Kishi Station and created a special report about Tama merchandise and tourism:
Tama is shown sleeping in his new office, where he is joined by two helper cats named Miko and Chibi. On the day of the filming, many tourists can bee seen at the station, including a woman who came all the way from Chiba Prefecture to see Tama. The gift shop at Kishi Station is well stocked with various Tama souvenirs, including snacks, photo books, and even a DVD of Tama and his helpers. Some of the tourists who come to see Tama end up staying at onsen hotels in the area, and the owner of one such hotel expresses her happiness at the situation.
Professor Miyamoto believes one of the most impressive things about Tama’s economic impact was its low cost. For the price of a cat-sized stationmaster hat and some cat food, the Wakayama Electric Railway has raked in a huge amount of money.
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.
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.
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.