Once upon a time, there was a cat and she was called Tama. She was a stray calico, but she found a nice man who would feed her by the train station. That train line was in a fairly rural area and did not get enough riders, so the local government decided to get rid of the station agents to cut costs and asked local business people to help out and become station masters. The man who fed Tama became the station master for Kishi station.
But one year later, the railway decided why not make Tama the station master? Then she would have a job and no longer been an unemployed stray mooching off the goodwill of others and instead of paying for a full human salary, they would only need to provide cat food and one made to order hat (higher cost up front, but big savings for the company in the long run). Tama’s job is to greet the passengers while wearing her hat.
She did such a good job that ridership went up 17%. Tama was promoted to “Super Station Master” and is now the only female with a managerial position in the whole company, not to mention the only cat. She is so busy that she had to hire 2 assistant station masters, Chibi and Miko (who also happens to be her mother…awkward!).
Last weekend, while in Okayama city, several prefectures away from the train line with the original Tama, I found a Tama themed tram (Tama-densha or Tama-den for short). I guess her popularity has spread pretty far. Tama has also inspired other stations to have all sorts of honorary station masters, from rabbits to 2-year-olds.