Tama the Cat: The Legacy of Kishi’s Super Stationmaster

Wakayama Railway runs only 15 km, connecting Wakayama City and the small town of Kishi. This small railway stood on the brink of bankruptcy until it had a most unexpected savior, a stray cat. They named this little cat Tama and on a whim gave her the position of stationmaster. Tama the cat took the world by storm, not only making the station famous, but also saved the railway from abandonment. Although Tama passed away a few years ago, her subordinates Nitama and Yontama now run things in her steed. Today, the Wakayama Railway is an unexpected destination for cat lovers from all over the world!

 

Tama the Cat: Savior of the Wakayama Railway

The Decline of the Kishigawa Line

Built in 1916 as the Nankai Kishigawa Line, the main purpose of the line was to help visitors easily get to the Wakayama Sanzan Shrines. However, as cars became more commonplace, the number of passengers declined sharply over the years. In 2003 Nakai Railways decided to abandon the line, but since there were still people who rely on the Kishigawa Line to commute, the prefecture decided it would purchase the line. They re-named it the Wakayama Railway and let a train company in Okayama run the line.

A Home for Tama

It was around this time when the railway was changing hands that a stray cat took up residence in a small storage building next to the station. Every day, the cat would make her way around the station. Somehow, she got the name Tama and her friendly demeanor made her a favorite with customers.

cartoon version of Tama the Cat, former super stationmaster of Kishi Station

Character of Tama the Cat

However, the city decided to take down the storage building to make room for parking lot. The new president of the Wakayama Railway took pity on Tama, and decided to let her replace the recently deceased human stationmaster, so she could stay at the station.

The Super Stationmaster Cat

Once she became stationmaster, people from all over the world came to see her. Even big news companies from overseas, like CNN and BBC, came to see Tama. The station started to make Tama the Cat merchandise, which tourists happily bought up. In fact, they sold so much Tama merchandise that the train company was even able to pay off its debts! Because of her contributions to the company, Tama got promoted, and became a chief executives of the company.

Display of Tama the cat at the Tama Cafe in Kishi Station.

Statue of Tama and her formal super stationmaster outfit.

The Success of Tama the Cat

Later in her life, Tama earned the title of “Ultra Stationmaster”, making her stationmaster of all of Wakayama Railways stations. Finally, at the age of 16, Tama the Cat passed away. Of course she had a funereal, which attracted some 3,000 people including the governor and mayor of Wakayama.

grave of Tama the cat

Grave of Tama the cat

After her death, Tama had one last accomplishment, godhood. Sanctified as Tama Daimyojin, her little shrine is in front of Kishi Station.

Shrine to Tama the Cat at Kishi Station

Shrine to Tama the cat

Tama’s Successors, Nitama and Yontama

After her passing, her apprentice, Nitama, became the stationmaster of Kishi Station. Wakayama Railway also placed another cat, Yontama in charge of nearby Idakiso Station. In the spirit of Tama, both Nitama and Yontama welcome hundreds of visitors every day. They even opened a little café and museum to Tama the Cat in Kishi Station.

 

Getting to Kishi and Idakiso Stations

Both these stations are only 15 to 20 minutes away from Wakayama Station, which is roughly an hour away from Osaka. To get to Wakayama Station from Osaka, take the JR Hanwa Line from Tennnoji Staion off the Osaka Loop Line.

Make sure to buy a one day ticket. Just going round-trip between Wakayama and Kishi is 800 yen and a one day ticket is just 780 yen.

Wakayama Railway One Day Pass

Wakayama One Day Pass. The pass is only valid for the date you scratch off. Check your dates!

Also, before you go, check the Wakayama Railway’s website to make sure that Nitama and Yontama are on duty that day. 

The Wakayama Railway has many interesting trains too!!

Red umeboshi train of the Wakayama Electric Railway

Umeboshi Train: South Wakayama is famous for umeboshi

Inside of the strawberry train of the wakayama electric railway

Inside of the Strawberry Train

Tama train sitting in its warehouse

Tama Train. Unfortunately Tama train was not in operation when we went TT_TT

Yontama, Super Stationmaster of Idakiso Station

Yontama is the Super Stationmaster of Idakiso Station [伊太祁曽駅]. She was abandoned by her mother and was a stray, but now she is doing her hard work in Idakiso station.

Idakiso Station

Idakiso Station

Yontama, Super Stationmaster of Idakiso Station

Yontama

Nitama apprenticed in Idakiso Staion when Tama was around, so they have some Nitama stuff there.

Case of Nitama official uniform and certifications

Case of Nitama official uniform and certifications

You can also rent Tama bikes at and near the station. 

red bike featuring tama the cat

Nitama, Super Stationmaster of Kishi Station

Nitama is in charge of Kishi Station [貴志駅]. She was also a stray cat the train company in Okayama adopted her. Before long, they made her the apprentice to Tama the Cat. After Tama died, she became the new stationmaster of the Wakayama Railway.

Nitama at Kishi Station

Current Super Stationmaster, Nitama

Nitama has a long fur and looks like a Persian cat, that’s why her name is written in katakana, not hiragana.

Nitama Super Stationmaster cat

Nitama

Due to Tama and Nitama’s popularity, Kishi Station got a makeover a few years ago. It shapes like a kitty and the roof is hiwada-buki (cypress bark), which is commonly seen in Shinto shrines.

Cat shaped Kishi Station

Kishi Station

blue and white tile flooring of tama the cat

It is pretty incredible that many people still come all the way to Kishi Station just to see Nitama, especially since the station is pretty remote. If you have time sit a while and visit the Tama café or the gift shop next to the station where you can buy a plenty of Tama and Nitama goods!

Tama Cafe cappuccino

Tama the cat cappuccino

Tower of merchandise of Tama the cat and Nitama

Tama the cat and Nitama merchandise

Additional Information 

Wakayama Electric Railway Website https://www.wakayama-dentetsu.co.jp/en/
Nitama’s Work Schedule Work Days: Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat, Sun
Days Off: Wed, Thus
Yontama’s Work Schedule Work Days: Tues, Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun
Days Off: Mon, Fri
Tama Cafe and Tama Shop  Cafe Hours 
Daily: 9:15-17:15
Closed: Every 3rd WednesdayShop Hours
Daily: 10:00-16:15

Coming next time,
The famous Mii-dera Temple!

The adventure continues…

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One Response to “Tama the Cat: The Legacy of Kishi’s Super Stationmaster

  • Lisa Cameron
    12 months ago

    This story gives m are me very happy. I love animals and have two adorable young cats of my own that being us constant joy.

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