While the media tries to make news out of the Obamas’ as-yet-unselected new puppy, a mellow calico cat in Japan has effortlessly climbed the corporate ladder and gained a cult following as the first female manager with the Wakayama Electric Railway. I’m not kidding.
Nine-year-old Tama is the daughter of a stray who lives in the small country town of Kinokawa. Before Tama took an interest in the train station – the last stop on the line – ridership on its 10 daily trains was so low, all the human employees had been let go.
What the place needed was a feline touch. In January 2007, the railway appointed Tama stationmaster, complete with her own official cap and badge. Business immediately began to pick up.
Now, people take off time from work and travel hours just to see Tama. At last count, the station was handling 2.1 million riders a year.
Before becoming famous, Tama lived with the human who owns the grocery store next door. Now she has her own station office in a specially tailored ticket booth. It was opened in April with a ceremony attended by the mayor of Kinokawa and the president of Wakayana Electric.
The station has also added a gift shop featuring a variety of Tama-themed items, including buttons, mugs, and a photo book. According to Osaka University, Tama-mania has brought $10 million U.S. into the local economy.
Tama now lives at the station with a human assistant who handles the crowds. Couples are keen to see Tama put her front legs together because her brown fur forms a heart that’s supposed to bring good luck.
Here’s video of Tama and her fans, as well as some Tama trivia.
Tama is purring proof that it pays to work like a cat.