The end of the line

Rarely has a name befitted a cat so well as that of Tama-Chan, which means “Little Treasure” in Japanese. Some of you may remember my previous post about this popular feline station master, who was celebrated for turning around the fortunes of a small Japanese railway station single pawedly. Profits soared as people flocked to check out the particularly cute station master, who quite often could be seen sporting her hat at a jaunty angle – a look which may be considered too racy for most people but which she carried off with aplomb.

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However, at the age of 15, it was clear that Tama would soon need some respite from her hectic 6 day week schedule, and a young apprentice, Nitama or “Second Tama” was engaged, with an eye to stepping in should the time come. Sadly that day came sooner than was hoped for and Tama-Chan, stationmaster extraordinaire and vice-president of the Wakayama Electric Railway, died on June 22nd, aged 16 years.

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In an national outpouring of grief, an estimated 3,000 people, including railway officials attended Tama’s Shinto-style funeral. Indeed, Mitsunobu Kojima, president of the Wakayama Electric Railway was quoted as saying “Tama-chan really emerged like a saviour, a goddess. It was truly an honour to have been able to work with her.” and the governor of Wakayama, Yoshinobu Nisaka, said Tama was a “superstar of tourism”. In honour of all her good work Tama has earned the posthumous status of Shinto goddess and will be enshrined at a shrine for cats in August.

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So it’s with great sadness and possibly a certain amount of trepidation, that Nitama will assume Tama’s role as station master and we all wave Tama off on that great locomotive in the sky. We are sad to see you go, but It’s been nice knowing you kitty!

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