JAPAN Forward, Kaichi Iwamoto

Tama's Enduring Popularity

The popularity of the endearing “station master” Tama, a female calico cat on the Wakayama Electric Railway Kishigawa Line, endures.

While serving as a station master, Tama gained fame for her adorable outlook and attracted plenty of tourists from home and abroad. She frequently appeared in foreign media, causing her to gain an international reputation. Her popularity hasn’t faded, despite her death at the age of 16 in 2015.

A pretty 30-minute train ride from the JR Wakayama Station brings you to the unmanned Kishi Station in the town of Kinokawa, Wakayama Prefecture. There you will find a Shinto shrine, with small gates, that holds the spirit of Tama, who was Kishi’s “super stationmaster” and became the sprit goddess Tama Daimyojin upon her death.

Tama’s Overseas Fans

Wakayama Electric Railway spokeswoman Noriko Yamamoto talked about how much Tama was loved. “I can sense how great ‘Tama’ was as foreign tourists continue to visit the Tama Shrine, even three years after she died.”

She lived a good life at a time when animal station masters were still rare. She was introduced to foreign audiences on TV programs and through the internet. Tourists from all parts of the world came to see her when they visited Japan.

Aside from many interviews, Tama made her “acting” debut in the French documentary film Looking for Cats (La Voie Du Chat) in 2008. The film, shown in France, Germany and Japan, interviewed many cats worldwide to depict the close relationship between cats and humans.

More Offers to Come

In 2017, about two years after Tama died, the search engine giant Google paid tribute to her. Commemorating her birthday, April 29, Google rolled out a special one-day logo of the calico cat in 12 countries, including Japan and several in Europe.

In the past, Google had created special logos to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Astro Boy by Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka (2008) and the 100th anniversary of Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (2010).

Yamamoto expressed surprise at the honor for Tama, saying, “I did not expect Tama to become so widely known.”

Collaboration on a picture book with the famous Chinese animation character “Ali” is now under way. A plan to make an anime film starring Tama has also been discussed.

Plans have also emerged for a documentary film (...)

By - grape Japan editorial staff.