Japanese Stationmaster Cat Dies

Cat Tama spent her days napping in a converted ticket booth, was paid in cat food and helped tiny Kishi station keep running.

On Monday, Tama, the female tortoiseshell cat stationmaster at Japan’s Kishi Station since 2007, died of suspected acute heart failure. Tama, who turned 16 in April and had been recovering from rhinitis since May, was heralded as the cat who single-handedly saved the struggling station from financial ruin, as her presence lured people across the world to the tiny station just to see her manning her post in her lively stationmaster cap and badge.

Kishi, which serves Kinokawa in Wakayama Prefecture, a rural neighborhood in southeast Japan, was hanging by a shoestring, on the brink of closing down for good, when Tama, a cat belonging to a local shopkeeper’s family, began hanging around. The station soon started toting the Tortie as the “Super Stationmaster,” garnering hundreds of thousands of tourists who boosted local economy – all for a picture of the kitty.

The rise of Tama (who spent her days napping in a converted ticket booth, and was paid in cat food) allowed the teeny tiny station to keep running and even expanded to include a Tama-themed café, as well as a souvenir shop featuring Tama trinkets, and a feline stationmaster apprentice known as Nitama (who subbed for Tama on weekends).

The passing of Tama touched many, with Wakayama Governor Yoshinobu Nisaka releasing a statement calling cat Tama a “tourism superstar extremely popular in and out of Japan who contributed greatly to promoting tourism in our prefecture. I am filled with deep sorrow and appreciation.”

A funeral for Tama is scheduled for this Sunday at Kishi Station, with Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima holding post as chairman of the Yama funeral committee.

How’s that for a touching tribute to a cat who saved Kishi Station?

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