In 2004. Kishi, a railway station in Japan, was about to be shut down. It was losing money and the management already made their decision. Mr. Koyama, an informal station manager at the time was probably burdened by worries, counting his last days at work when he decided to adopt one of the stray cats in the neighborhood. He named her Tama and had no idea that he started to make history. 11 years later, Tama earned a posthumous status of Shinto goddess.
How did it happen?
After Mr. Koyama adopted Tama she made Kishi her new home. And she loved that station. She got a custom made station manager cap and was greeting passengers 24/7. Very soon she became so popular that in 2006, when the last employee of Kishi left, she still stayed. In the meantime the number of passengers rose by 10%. Obviously, as a result of the Tamas publicity, railway station increased in passengers and finance and the management decided to keep the station.
Tama was promoted to super station master in 2008., and in 2010. she became operating officer. She had her office – ticket box with scratching posts, beds, toys, water, food bowls and a litter box 🙂 Tama also got her own special train named “Tama Densha” in 2009. It was customized with cartoon depictions of Tama. In 2010. the Wakayama Electric Railway even rebuilt the Kishi Station to resemble a cat’s face.
Tama sadly died in 2015 due to heart failure. She was 16 (in human years that is about 80 years), but because she was so famous her funeral attended approximately 3000 people. Wakayama Electric Railway said a proper goodbye to their beloved employee.
The story of Tama also brought awareness of strays and her story surely helped many stray cats in Japan and worldwide.
Recently, Japanese civic group “Kitten Cafe Sanctuary” made one step further towards helping stray and abandoned cats by making them passengers in train together with people. Passengers from Ogaki could play and cuddle with 30 cats in the train while traveling. Events like this helped to drop number of shelter cats by 70% in Japan since 2004.
It looks like cats are more than welcome in Japanese trains. That is just great for the kitties, but also great for the humans!