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.
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.
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.
After her death, Tama had one last accomplishment, godhood. Sanctified as Tama Daimyojin, her little shrine is in front of Kishi Station.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Nitama apprenticed in Idakiso Staion when Tama was around, so they have some Nitama stuff there.
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 has a long fur and looks like a Persian cat, that’s why her name is written in katakana, not hiragana.
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.
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!
|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 |
Closed: Every 3rd WednesdayShop Hours