Travel

Station Master Tama The Cat

Today I want to introduce a special spot in Japan that is a must-visit for cat lovers!
Of course, there’s Cat Island, but have you heard of the only cat station master in Japan?

Visited: July 28th 2011

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

 

The Super Station Master Tama is a cat!

In Japan even cats can become a station master it seems! Don’t worry! This is not very common. In fact, you’ll only find the fluffy staff member at JR Kishi Station, Kinokawa in Wakayama Prefecture (map).

 

How a cat became a station master:

Japan has a prefecture popularity list and a few years ago Wakayama was pretty much at the bottom of the list. This is something I can’t really understand. I’ve been to all 47 Japanese prefectures and I like Wakayama Prefecture. Apart from Shirahama and Kumano Kodo it also has the great Mt. Koya to offer! You should definitely visit!

The area around Kishi Station didn’t get any visitors. The trains on the Kishigawa Line were often empty. In 2004 the station was almost shut down because of the lack of customers.

Mr. Toshiko Koyama who managed the station as an inofficial station master is the owner of a grocery store next to Kishi Station. He took care of Tama. In 2007 it was decided on a whim to introduce Tama as the station master.

Tama attracted a lot of attention. More and more people came to see her. She’s the only cat, but also the only female in such a position within the Japan Railway Company!

After being featured in the media her popularity quickly grew more and more. In a very short time Tama rescued not only the station, but has also contributed a few billion yen to the local economy.

Tama is a true Maneki Neko as she is attracting customers. In 2010 she was promoted to be an “operating officer“. She has an assistant called “Chibi” which is – of course – also a cat!

 

Update (06/2015): On June 22, 2015 Tama passed away at the age of 16. It’s a great age for a cat, but still very sad. R.I.P Tama!
Don’t worry, there will be a successor, so it’s still worth visiting. From now on it’ll be Stationmaster Nitama!

Here’s another video in Japanese in case you can’t get enough of Tama.

 

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

How to get to the Station Master Tama

From JR Wakayama Station (~ 90min. from Osaka) it’s very easy to get to the train that will bring you to JR Kishi Station. Just follow Tama’s footpawsteps!

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

Tama is a calico cat (mikeneko, 三毛猫). Among all the cats, mikeneko is considered to bring you the best of luck in Japan.

So, it’s no wonder that Tama is so popular. There’s also a lot of cute cartoons and merchandising of Tama. You can’t deny that Super Station Master Tama (スーパー駅長たま, supa ekichou tama) is extremely cute.

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

The train ride from JR Wakayama Station to Kishi Station using Wakayama Electric Railway takes about half an hour.

Right after getting off the train a big banner will greet you: “We love TAMA”

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

Even the clock has a cute cartoon version of Tama.

As you can see I visited in the afternoon as I spent the morning in Wakayama City to see Wakayama Castle. I’ll write about that another time.

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

In the small station building there are a LOT of photos of Tama. Even the train schedule is surrounded by cute photos of her.

As a cat lover I couldn’t get enough of her. She looks so cute with her official conductor hat!

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

When I visited she wasn’t on duty. Or maybe she was, but she fell asleep in her office!

“Hey, don’t sleep during working hours!!”, I wanted to scream. But the sleeping Tama is cute as well, so I left her alone.

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

Next to the small station building is a “souvenir shop” where you can buy a lot of Tama merchandising!
In the photo above you see what I bought. I just couldn’t resist! My biggest treasure is the photo book of Tama and her assistant.

I asked the people working there about Tama and they told me that Tama wears her uniform only for “official” photo shoots, e.g. when the media comes.

I was a bit disappointed, but also glad to hear that. I bet it’s a lot of stress for Tama to have those “official press conferences”. It’s good to see that most of the time she can live just like a normal cat. After all she’s so precious that they will do everything to keep her healthy.

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

JR Kishi Station is very small and shaped like a cat’s face! After Tama became so popular and attracted tourists they had enough money to rebuild the station in August 2010.

Isn’t this the cutest train station you’ve ever seen?

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

Don’t get confused by the name. The station itself is the actual museum. You don’t have to pay an entrance fee or anything. And apart from Tama and all the cute photos, the clock and a few other items, there’s nothing else to see. But that’s more than enough for me and for other cat lovers!

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

As I still had some time left, I decided to stroll around and see what else there was to see. I ran yet into another cat!

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

There’s not that much to see, but the area is really beautiful and if you come in spring (February – May) you can go strawberry picking!

The region is known for its delicious strawberries. That’s also why ….

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

… there’s a strawberry train!!! Strawberries are printed not only outside, but also inside the train. It’s such a cute and unique train!

As strawberry season was over, all I could get was some super delicious strawberry ice cream. Of course the cup featured another cute cartoon Tama.

JR Kishi Station Master Tama the Cat

Besides the strawberry train there’s also the “Omocha Train” (toy train) and of course the “Tama Train” (たま電車). If you’re lucky you can ride either of them when traveling between JR Wakayama and JR Kishi Stations.

Here’s more information about all three trains, timetables, local sightseeing spots and of course about Tama (II).

 

What do you think? Is it worth a visit?

I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re a cat lover or if you’re nearby anyways. It’s also one of these “only in Japan” experiences, so you shouldn’t miss it!

Have you met Tama? Or the successor Nitama?

17 Comments

  • This has to be the cutest Railway employee in all over the world. :happy:

    Sadly this is really an "only in Japan" experience. I mean, I love these kind of japan-thingy-experiences but wouldn´t it be fun to discover something like this in your country, region, whatever :ehehe:

    I don´t mean for example that one over here has to copy the japanese, but maybe draw a little bit inspiration. :sweatdrop2:

    But maybe then we would not have only-in-japan-thingy-experiences anymore ....:huh:
    And the thought that just crossed my mind about a Tama-like station maintained by the Deutsche Bahn is not that great either :D

    Maybe I philosophize to much into this theme.. and should just enjoy the sight of cute little Tama :fan:

    P.S.

    Yaaaaayyyy... my first comment.. I´ve been lurking around for months.. and finally commented... go me! ;P

    P.P.S

    Please keep up the great work. Your Blog/Site is one of those rare shiny gems that are buried in the endless realms of the internet. I´m really happy that i found the way here from one of your comments you made on another litte haven of japanese knowledge on the web (tabibito ;P ) a loooong time ago :sparkling:

    P.P.P.S

    Sorry for the bad english... I´m trying to improve it^^
    I could have written in german, but that would disrupt the flow of the site xD

    P.P.P.P.S.

    Also sorry for the intensive use of emoticons... they were to cute to resist :satisfied:

    P.P.P.P.P.S.

    *leaves some of zoomiees favorite cookies at the end of this :mail:

    Sincerely,
    Tercidine

    • Hallo Tercidine! :D

      This must be the cutest comment I’ve ever got! Thank you so, so much! (*___*)b
      Also thanks for the cookies! ‘munch munch*

      Of course, it would be a great idea, but I seriously can’t imagine the “Deutsche Bahn” (German Railway) to have such a cute staff member!
      I fear that won’t happen, but maybe elsewhere? Maybe a restaurant or something? It doesn’t have to be the “Deutsche Bahn”, right? ;)

      Your English is fine. Don’t worry about it! ^_^
      And use as many emoticons as you want, that’s what they’re here for! :luvit:

      P.S.: *sees a lot of Ps and Ss flying around* :hihi:

      • Wow. I didn´t think I get a reply so fast :shock:

        This must be the cutest comment I’ve ever got! Thank you so, so much! (*___*)b

        Now i fell a little bit flattered^^ I really wanted to comment sooner but I never knew what to write. especially in english xD

        The Restaurant idea sounds great. But I´m afraid it has to end up to ordinary/unobstrusive or else it would be to strange for most germans ;P

        Your English is fine. Don’t worry about it! ^_^
        And use as many emoticons as you want, that’s what they’re here for! :luvit:

        Really!? I think it´s not that good. I have to work more on it. :sweatdrop2:
        It has to get better so that I can finally shift attention to begin truly learning japanese, which i really really really want to learn. I think its the perfect languange for expressing emotions and I love the sound of each and every word :satisfied: ...
        But have never been able to start fully because of studies and the demotivation of learning alone and without opportunity to take classes here in the outskirts of the outskirts :ehehe:

        P.S.

        Yay, I take this as a "Darfschein" to use a lot of emoticons^^ Hopefully you don´t regret it later :hihi:

        And sorry about the many flying P´s and S´s :hihi: I hope you could hide fast enough^^

        • No worries, I understand! ;)
          Especially with my travel posts, there’s usually not much to say unless you’ve been there yourself already.

          The sound of a language is what usually motivates me to study it. It was like that for Spanish and later for Japanese. :D

  • awesome place! been there about two years ago and couldnt get enough of it… the surroundings have been quite nice, but in the end quite boring…
    but tama rules, i just cant stand the uniform and the hat, same way i cant stand putting animals in louis vuitton bags…
    next thing ill visit? neko island!

    • Hi Gorden!
      Glad to hear back from you! Hope you’re doing well. I see you’re still in Japan! :D
      As they only put the cat into the uniform for special occasions, I think it’s ok. Other than that I agree. I don’t think it’s good when people put their pets into weird clothes on a daily basis.

      Enjoy Cat Island! ^____^

      • yes, im still here, though so much didnt change… besides studying i dont really do much… well i cant do much anyway^^ but its still okay so far…
        i actually bought something at that shop, too…i couldnt resist… and in case anyone wants to go there, dont do it in summer… i did and its been horrible… though you could enjoy yourself at the nearby lake/river…

        the clothes are strange… its actually hard to decide… of course it looks funny, so i like it somehow… but then again its close to animal cruelty, somehow… though japanese dont mind that anyway as long as they are entertained… but yes, tama looks cool in uniform…
        i didnt see the “co-workers” when i have been there… maybe they have been on holidays… or mouse-hunting…

        • Glad to hear that! :D

          I went there in summer as well. It’s hot like that anywhere in summer (well, maybe apart from Nagano and Hokkaido).
          I enjoyed it a lot despite the heat. Kyoto gets even hotter in summer than Wakayama.

          Haha, yes, I didn’t see her co-worker, either. Too bad. Would have loved to! ^___^

          • that damn heat is everywhere now… but good that im not affected by humidity^^ so id just say its also already humid now (without knowing how that feels though)…
            maybe i should go again to see the co-workers, but i was more interested in the building in the end… sure, cats are always nice, but especially calico cats are anything but nice… except the ones being station masters, that is…
            when i have been to wakayama (beach), the weather wasnt too nice… warm enough, but no sun… you can decide if thats good or not… for me better, because i dont like being grilled (i like it warm though) and i get bored at the beach after exactly 2 minutes… also i mind beaches because of my tattoos (secretely hoping that they are banned at the beaches i have to go to) the food was good though…
            unfortunately im still unemployed (why the hel its not possible to find even baito is beyond me) so al the travel stuff has to wait for a while i guess… but then i will travel… good thing is that i saw most of japan already anyway, so it isnt that frustrating…
            and until that i enjoy my black stray cat outside (see how lucky i am? sometimes it even waits in front of my door^^)…

    • Maybe not worth a trip just to see her, but if you’re in Wakayama City already, it’s just a short trip from there!
      She’s cute even when sleeping and you can spend all your money on lots of cute merchandising. :hihi:

  • I’m so happy I just found your blog, and you have many articles on places I visited and others I want to go to ! Cat lover here too ♥

    I met Tama in summer 2014 and was so happy I took the time to go to Kishi after a few days hiking in Kumano, it was all so very lovely. Also, Tama looked very much like my first kitty Réglisse who is also a 三毛猫, but sadly passed away a few weeks after Tama. I like to believe they are both really happy in cat paradise now.