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:
Top image courtesy Wakayama City Tourist Association.