Wakayama City

A Japanese train station that appointed a local stray raked in an extra $10.4 million over one year.

The stationmaster at Japan's Kishi train station probably won't be able to help you find the platform, or check your luggage, or rush for a transfer. She'd make a good companion though, as long as you're not more of a dog person.

Since 2007, a calico cat named Tama has served as Super Station Master at the small station in Kinokawa City in Wakayama Prefecture. A decade earlier, the small local train line had been hemorrhaging $4.7 million a year. Though a merger forced the Wakayama Electric Railway to reduce staff at the stations along the route, Tama, a stray cat adopted by a local storekeeper, stuck around. And once they named her the official station master in 2007, things turned around quickly. Her first year on the job saw a 10 percent increase in ridership, and, according to one study, an extra 1.1 billion yen ($10.4 million) came into the once-failing system.

Now, Tama's helped bring international media attention to Kishi train station, which has become a national tourism destination. The system now has special cat-themed train cars, a Tama cafe and a souvenir shop selling everything from stuffed animals to a full set of dining room furniture. According to the blog Spoon & Tamago, Tama's annual salary is paid out in a year's supply of cat food, which is an awful lot like a subsistence wage, especially given the huge profits she's helped rake in. At least she gets a snazzy uniform and a window-filled office in a converted ticket booth.

See more photos of the big cat in charge, and the empire of swag she's spawned, below:

Photo courtesy Wakayama Tourism Federation.
The Tama Cafe serves frozen yogurt and other Tama themed snacks. Photo courtesy Flickr user woofiegrrl.
Souvenirs in the Tama shop. Photo courtesy Flickr user woofiegrrl.
Interior of the train. Photo courtesy Flickr user scjody.

Top image courtesy Wakayama City Tourist Association.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Tech workers sit around a table on their laptops in San Francisco, California
    Life

    America’s Tech Hubs Still Dominate, But Some Smaller Cities Are Rising

    Despite established urban tech hubs, some smaller cities are attracting high-tech jobs with lower living costs, unique talent pools, and geographic diversity.

  2. Equity

    The Hidden Horror of Hudson Yards Is How It Was Financed

    Manhattan’s new luxury mega-project was partially bankrolled by an investor visa program called EB-5, which was meant to help poverty-stricken areas.

  3. Two men plant a young tree in a lot in Detroit.
    Environment

    Why Detroit Residents Pushed Back Against Tree-Planting

    Detroiters were refusing city-sponsored “free trees.” A researcher found out the problem: She was the first person to ask them if they wanted them.

  4. Equity

    How Structural Racism is Linked to Higher Rates of Police Violence

    It's not just implicit racial bias. According to a new study, state policies are also a determinant factor in police shootings that disproportionately target African Americans.

  5. Transportation

    Electric Scooters Aren’t a Transportation Revolution Yet

    New data show a staggering rise in shared dockless e-scooter use nationwide. But commuting habits have seen little change since the dawn of micromobility.