This is the true story of how a feline stationmaster saved a train line from being abandoned. It is not a Studio Ghibli animation; this genuine stationmaster is a female cat named “Tama” and the station is located about one and a half hours from Kansai Airport, the entrance to Osaka, a city with an abundance of Halal noodle restaurants and prayer rooms for Muslims.
In 2006, when Tama became the Kishi stationmaster, the number of passengers on the Wakayama Electric Railway, Kishigawa Line had decreased and authorities were considering abandoning the line. A private company commissioned with reviving the line came across Tama, a cat that was kept in a train station kiosk. Tama was already a popular figure locally and, as the station was going to be unmanned, the decision was made to appoint Tama as the stationmaster. Naturally, it was the first time in Japan railway history a cat assumed such a position.
Tourists flocked to the station as Tama became a hot topic, unique trains such as a Tama train, toy train, and strawberry train were put into service, and character goods also became very popular. In Japan cats are considered an auspicious animal, with a beckoning cat believed to bring luck and happiness, and Tama proved this.
Seafood, vegetables, fruit are specialties of Wakayama and there is a lot of Muslim friendly food on offer. You can also enjoy juice and gelato made from local fruits at Kishi station. To get there, it’s easiest to take the Kansai Airport Limousine Bus from KansaiInternational Airport to JR Wakayama Station. If you ride the Wakayama Electric Railway, Kishigawa Line from JR Wakayama Station all the way to the final stop, Kishi, you can meet Tama. Tama works from Tuesday to Friday, while the station is staffed by Nitama, a different stationmaster, on weekends and Monday public holidays. The station is not staffed on regular Mondays.