Monday, March 14, 2016
Thousands of people at the funeral for a railway stationmaster in a tiny town? Cupcakes, notebooks, figurines, tote bags imprinted with the stationmaster’s picture? A stationmaster born in the worker’s waiting room at the station? A station in the shape of the stationmaster’s head? Wait - the stationmaster was also a female and a calico at that! Tama-chan died last year at the age of 16, having been appointed stationmaster when the last human was laid off at the nearly-defunct station in Kishi, Japan.
Ms. Tama-chan, rewarded by ample tins of tuna, wore her cap and displayed a nonchalant sophistication about her fame. Over the years more and more tourists flocked to Kishi to view Tama and in 2009, a special cat-train (with whiskers and cartoons of Tama everywhere) ran on the rail line, bringing a billion yen income to the town. For her dedication to the profitability of Wakayama Electric Railway and, of course, her seniority, she became an operating officer of the railway and a company vice-president. Since no one else had contributed so much to WER and to Kishi, upon Tama-chan’s demise, the president of the railway honored her as a goddess and she was buried in a Shinto shrine. So no one should look down their noses at a calico cat. She might just be Tama-chan reincarnated.