Cat stationmaster elevated as goddess
TOKYO - The Associated Press
Tama, a cat that served as nominal stationmaster, has died at the age of 16. AFP PhotoTama the stationmaster, Japan’s feline star of a struggling local railway, was mourned by company officials and fans and elevated into a goddess at a funeral on June 28.
The calico cat was appointed stationmaster at the Kishi station in western Japan in 2007. Donning her custom-made stationmaster’s cap, Tama quietly sat at the ticket gate welcoming and seeing off passengers. The cat quickly attracted tourists and became world-famous, contributing to the railway company and local economy.
Tama, who had turned 16 in April, died of a heart failure on June 22. During the Shinto-style funeral at the station where she served, Tama became a goddess. The Shinto religion, indigenous to Japan and practiced by many Japanese, has a variety of gods including animals. Wakayama Electric Railway President Mitsunobu Kojima thanked the cat for her achievement, and said Tama will be enshrined at a nearby cat shrine next month.
Before Tama’s arrival, the local Kishigawa Line was near-bankrupt; and the station was unmanned as it had lost its last staff.
During her tenure, Tama had contributed an estimated 1.1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to the local economy, Kojima said.
Tama is a popular name for cats in Japan, where they are considered spiritual animals. The word could translate as treasure, ball or spirit.