Japanese railway commemorates 10th anniversary of cat stationmaster
A Japanese railway operator held an event Thursday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of a cat's appointment as a stationmaster, drawing more than 100 fans of the iconic mascot despite it having died more than 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 around Japan and the world.
The railway company also unveiled its newest feline recruit, Yontama, during the event. The 8-month-old cat, also a female calico, will start "working" next week as an apprentice stationmaster at Idakiso Station on the Kishigawa Line in Wakayama Prefecture, western Japan. Yontama 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 stationmaster cap-wearing Tama entertained many tourists, ensuring the once money-losing Kishigawa Line would continue operating.
The success sparked a trend of appointing rabbits, cats, dogs and other animals as stationmasters for financially struggling local railways across Japan, which keep the animals at stations to attract passengers and tourists.
"I have been a fan of Stationmaster Tama for more than 10 years," said Kanna Matsumoto, a 22-year-old from Iwade in Wakayama Prefecture. "Yontama is also adorable. I hope she will keep the station lively."
The event was also attended by Wakayama Gov. Yoshinobu Nisaka, Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima and Nitama, Tama's successor cat currently serving as the master of Kishi Station.
After its death, Tama was appointed to the post of "honorary eternal stationmaster."