Tama the cat has become a station master for the Japanese railway
This week’s entry: Tama (cat)
What is it about : A Japanese calico cat who inadvertently prevented a station in Wakayama Prefecture from closing, becoming both a local celebrity and the station master.
The biggest controversy: Cats are taking jobs away from hardworking humans! In 2004, the financially struggling Wakayama Electric Railway planned to close Kishi station. In 2006, the company cut staff from each station along its line to cut costs and appointed an unofficial station manager from a local company. The Kishi station was nominally overseen by Toshiko Koyama, who had just welcomed Tama among a group of wanderers. Tama quickly became a favorite with commuters, to the point where ridership increased significantly.
In 2007, the railway gave Tama the title of station master and one year of cat food as a salary. They even made a station master’s hat the size of a cat. Ridership continued to increase – in March 2007, traffic at Kishi station had increased by 10% over the previous year – and Tama is estimated to have boosted the local economy by $ 1.1 billion. yen during his tenure as station master.
Strangest fact: In a sad commentary on sexism in the Japanese workplace, Tama quickly became Wakayama Electric Railway’s top-ranked employee. By the end of 2007, she had received the Railroad’s Top Station Runner Award (instead of a cash bonus, she received a cat toy and was crab-fed by the president of the company). A month later, she was promoted to “super station master” and a ticket office was converted to her office, making her “the only woman in a managerial position” in Wakayama.
What we were most happy to learn: Tama’s rise through the corporate ranks (and the public’s affection) has been meteoric. In October 2008, Tama was knighted for the promotion of local tourism. In 2009, Wakayama launched a “Tama Train”, decorated with cartoon representations of the cat. In 2010, the railway promoted her to an “operations officer”. Wikipedia says she was “the first cat to become an executive in a railroad company,” and we would like to know if there were cats running other types of companies that made the distinction necessary. The following year, she was promoted to “Managing Executive Officer”, third behind the president of the company and the CEO.
In 2013, after six years of service, Tama was made honorary president of Wakayama Electric Rail for life, although within months of her promotion she reduced her hours at the station due to her advanced age.
What we were most unfortunate to learn: Tama is no longer with us. The cat died in June 2015 at the age of 16. Thousands of fans from all over the country came to Wakayama to pay homage to her, the railroad granted her the posthumous title “Honorary Eternal Stationmaster” and she was consecrated by a nearby Shinto shrine. as the spiritual goddess Tama Daimyōjin.
The railroad was well prepared for a future without Tama’s leadership; in 2012, they named an apprentice, Nitama (literally, “Second Tama”), a 2-year-old cat who had been found under a wagon in another railroad track. After Tama’s funeral, Nitama was taken to her shrine to pay homage to her, and then officially appointed as the station master. It is often described as “adorably plush”. There was also a third Tama, Sun-tama-tama (a pun on “Third Tama”), whose human guardian refused to give up the cat; in 2017, a kitten named Yontama (“Fourth Tama”) was appointed Nitama’s apprentice.
Also note: Even cat-run railways are not immune to nepotism. After her promotion in 2008, Tama received two assistants: her sister, Chibi, and her mother, Miiko. (How the family tree of a group of stray cats was determined is not disclosed here.)
Also note: Tama’s boost to the local economy is part of a larger phenomenon recognized in Japan, “nekonomikusu” (or “nekonomics”), which illustrates the positive economic impact of having a cat mascot.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: While it is doubtful that any cats have reached such a high level in the business world as Tama, some cats have succeeded in the public sector. Number 10 Downing Street has an official Chief Mouser at the Cabinet Office, the British Post of the 1950s and 1960s had a “cat number one” and in 1997, a tailless kitten named Stubbs was appointed mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska. He held that position for 20 years, more than three times as long as Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla. We’re just saying we can and have done worse than a kitten vice president.
Further into the wormhole: Like Herman Cain, Tama Twitter The account continued long after his death, as the ubiquitous social media hellish site replaced and degraded ordinary human interaction. Twitter is one of a handful of companies that didn’t exist 20 years ago and now shape all facets of American life, alongside Google, Amazon and Netflix. The latter, at least, gave this website plenty to write about while also acting as the secret teacher / mother / lover of a broken generation. In 2018, the streaming service was launched Dirty money, a docuseries focused on financial crimes including money laundering, payday loans, illegal mining and Jared Kushner. But they also dedicated an episode to the crime of the millennium: The great heist of Canadian maple syrup. We will see what was the biggest theft in Canadian history next week.