Cat stationmaster's fame spreads beyond Japan

Tama was named head of Kishi Station in 2007 and her presence boosted the number of people travelling on the Kishigawa Line.
Tama was named head of Kishi Station in 2007 and her presence boosted the number of people travelling on the Kishigawa Line.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

There are plans in China to publish a picture book featuring Tama, while an animation is planned in the US

WAKAYAMA (Japan) •The fame of Tama, the popular calico cat stationmaster of a railway station in Kinokawa, Japan, has been spreading overseas.

In China, there are plans to publish a picture book featuring Tama alongside a popular Chinese anime character, while an animation is planned in the United States.

Tama was named head of Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line operated by Wakayama Electric Railway in January 2007.

She attracted a great deal of interest and made a significant contribution to preserving the line and increasing its revenues.

One study found that in 2007 alone, Tama's presence had boosted the number of people travelling on the Kishigawa Line by 55,000, injecting a purr-fectly respectable 1.1 billion yen to the local economy.

Wakayama Electric Railway took over the line from Nankai Electric Railway, which had suffered financial difficulties.

Tama died in 2015, but her fame lives on and has even been growing.

"We're grateful to Tama, who continues to bring joy to areas along the line," an official at the company said.

Wakayama Electric Railway introduced other cat stationmasters to follow Tama.

A cat named Nitama is a so-called super stationmaster and Yontama is a stationmaster for the Kishigawa Line.

In Okayama, where the Wakayama Electric Railway's operating company is located, a cat called Sun Tama Tama is also gaining popularity.

Last year, a children's book depicting the life of Tama was published in China and there are plans for a live-action movie as well.

On April 29, an event was held to celebrate Tama's birthday at Kishi Station.

Wakayama Electric Railway president Mitsunobu Kojima and Professor Mao Danqing of Kobe International University, who was involved in the production of the Chinese-language children's book, announced a plan to publish a picture book featuring Tama and a popular Chinese fox character called Ali.

Tama and Ali character mascots and Nitama attended the event. The picture book is scheduled to be published before the end of this year.

A foreign film crew also came for the birthday event and filmed near the station. They did not disclose the details, but said they would produce a video featuring cats.

According to Wakayama Electric Railway, there are plans for an animation about Tama in the US.

"Tama continues to live forever in heaven and it spreads the appeal of Wakayama Electric Railway to the rest of the world. We learnt from Tama that it's possible to send information to the world even from a regional city," Mr Kojima said.

THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2018, with the headline 'Cat stationmaster's fame spreads beyond Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe