Cat lovers around the world are mourning the loss of Tama, the Japanese Stationmaster Cat, who passed away last week at the age of 16. Thousands of Tama Fans attended her Shinto-style funeral today at the station where she served, leaving gifts of canned tuna, sake and bouquets of flowers. During the service, she was named a Shinto goddess. The religion has numerous gods, including animals.
Before Tama’s arrival, the local Kishigawa Line was nearly bankrupt. The station was unmanned as it had lost its last staff. Giving her eulogy at the funeral, Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima said that appointing Tama as stationmaster was initially an excuse to keep the cat at the station.
“But she was really doing her job,” he said. The rest was a miracle.
People traveled to the station just to see her, and she saved the line from insolvency. Tama contributed an estimated 1.1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to the local economy during her tenure.
“Tama-chan really emerged like a savior, a goddess. It was truly my honor to have been able to work with her,” Kojima said.
Tama wasn’t just stationmaster. She was promoted to ultra-stationmaster, and eventually became vice president of the rail company. Today she received the title of “honorable eternal stationmaster.” She will be enshrined at a nearby cat shrine in August,
Kojima said that when he visited Tama at an animal hospital the day before she died, she woke up and reached out to him with her paws, as if asking for a hug, and looked straight into his eyes. He said he told Tama to get well so they could celebrate the cat’s upcoming 10th anniversary as a stationmaster, and she responded with a “meow.”
Tama’s successor is another calico cat, Nitama, who is now serving as an apprentice stationmaster.