The tricolor cat Tama, the «honorary and eternal head» of the station on the Kishigawa railway line, not only earned the love of local residents and popularity among tourists — she was ordained a samurai by order of the governor of the prefecture. For what merit?
On a clear May morning, at the small Idakiso train station in Japan, a group of tourists photographed a small cat basking in the sun. Someone’s child even dared to stroke her tummy.
The tricolor — black-red-white — kitten willingly let himself be picked up and purred, which one of the station workers looked at with a benevolent smile.
He intervened only when the conductor’s small uniform cap strove to slide over the cat’s eyes.
“Everyone is very happy that she is here with us at the station,” he told me, while the cat playfully touched the iPhone screen of one of the tourists. “Sometimes I even forget that she is my boss.”
Meet Yontama, the youngest of the stationmaster cats who helped save the Kishigawa Line in Wakayama Prefecture from closure.
Much of this Japanese prefecture is mountainous countryside. Here and there temples are visible on the hills — Wakayama is known for its pilgrimage routes.
She also had a hand in the day-to-day operations of the station, either greeting passengers from a table set up by the turnstile, or keeping an eye on business from behind the glass of her «office» (the usher booth, custom-designed for her, where she was given a tray and a sleeping place).
Passengers and railroad workers loved Tama so much that they commissioned a portrait of her from the artist, which now hangs along with many of her photographs in the gift shop at Kisi Station.
In the shop you can buy all sorts of things, one way or another connected with Tama — badges, key rings, sweets with a cat on a wrapper.