The StationMaster


Occupation: Stationmaster & Operating Officer

In 2006, the Wakayama Electric Railway was going to close the Kishi Station to save money. However, the president of the railway saw Tama, who had been living inside the station, as a maneki-neko, or ‘beckoning cat’, a common Japanese figurine which is believed to bring good luck and wealth.

On January 5, 2007, railway officials officially awarded Tama the title of Station Master. Her primary duty was to greet passengers. In lieu of a salary, the railway provided Tama with a year’s worth of cat food and a gold name tag stating her name and position. In July of 2008 Tama was presented with two specially designed station master’s hat, one for cold weather and one for summer.

After the publicity around Tama’s appointment, passenger traffic to the Kishi station increased by 17% and a study estimated that Tama contributed 1.1 billion yen (close to USD $650,000) to the local economy. Often cited as a phenomenon known in Japan as “Nekonomics” (“cat economy”), this refers to the positive economic impact of having a cat mascot.

On December 5, 2007, Tama was recognized with the railways “Top Station Runner Award”. Her year-end bonus included a special cat toy and a celebratory slice of crab, which was fed to Tama by the company president.

On January 5, 2008, Tama was promoted to “Super Station Master” in a ceremony attended by the president of the company, the mayor, and approximately 300 spectators. As a result of her promotion, she was “the only female in a managerial position in the company”. An additional “S” was added to her gold name tag for “super”.

In January 2010, Tama was promoted to “Operating Officer” in recognition of her contribution to expanding the railway’s customer base. She still maintained her station master’s job while taking on the responsibilities of the new job. Tama was the first cat to become an executive of a railroad corporation. To celebrate this great honor, the station building at Kishi was rebuilt with a new façade resembling a cat’s face.

Continuing her meteoric career path, in January 2011, she was promoted to “Managing Executive Officer”. This made her third in line in management after the company president and the managing director. 

Tama died on June 22, 2015, of apparent heart failure. She was honored with a Shinto-style funeral at the station and over 3,000 people attended. After the traditional fifty day mourning period, Tama was succeeded by her deputy, Nitama. Nitama’s first official duty was to be conveyed to her predecessor’s shrine to pay her respects. 

On April 29, 2017, on what would have been her 18th birthday, Google honored Tama with a Google doodle. 

Name: Tama

Occupation: Stationmaster & Operating Officer

Born: April 29,1999. Died: June 22, 2015.

Residence: Kishi Railway Station, Kinokawa, Japan.

Species: Cat.

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