Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture didn't see a lot of foot traffic until Wakayama Electric Railway Co. appointed a new furry stationmaster: a calico cat named Tama.
The purring pussycat has created a sensation since she was appointed "super stationmaster" in 2007. So much so that the old Kishi Station on the Kishigawa Line was razed, and a new-cat themed station now stands in its place that attracts visitors from across Japan and around the world.
The feline has helped create an economic ripple effect to the tune of 1.1 billion yen ($10.56 million) in one year after she became stationmaster.
"Tama the Station Cat" has been featured in a TV commercial for Korean Air Lines Co. and drew about 10,000 visitors from outside Japan in the first half of the last fiscal year, a twofold increase from the same period a year earlier.
It all began when Tama's owner, who was operating a kiosk at the station, had to remove the cat's hut nearby. Tama's owner asked the railway company to keep the cat at the station.
The company appointed Tama stationmaster in hopes of attracting visitors with her serving as a real-life "maneki neko" (beckoning cat), a traditional figurine considered to bring good luck.
The cute little stationmaster quickly won the hearts of visitors, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of tourists.
Another calico named Nitama has been appointed as Tama's successor. Wearing the special stationmaster's cap, Nitama has also become a popular face at the station.
Tama works at Kishi Station from Tuesdays to Fridays. Nitama shows up at the Idakiso Station on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and at the Kishi Station on weekends.
The new cat-shaped Kishi Station features a Tama-themed cafe and a souvenir shop with all kinds of fun and cute cat-themed products. A B5-size notebook with Nitama adorning the cover sells for 300 yen.
Wakayama Kishu-kan's address: 2-10-1, B1, Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan, Yurakucho, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
Open seven days a week. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.