Tama on the job
Dang! If we could put some of the inhabitants of La Casa de Los Gatos to work, life would be so much easier.
Tama, the charming calico pictured above, is the stationmaster of Kishi Station on the provincial Kishigawa Line of the Wakayama Electric Railway in Japan. See that cap? That's the official formal uniform cap the company had made up for her.
"Tama is the only stationmaster as we have to reduce personnel costs. You say you could ask for the cat's help, but she is actually bringing luck to us," Wakayama Electric spokeswoman Keiko Yamaki said.The article goes on to say that the railway company feeds Tama in lieu of paying her a salary.
We suspect most cats would consider that quite fair. What the heck would they do with a munny anyway? Except maybe buy cheesburgers:
more cat pictures
Or order the triple anchovy pizza from your local pizzeria?
Tama's mother was a stray cat who ingratiated herself with a cleaner who worked at the station. When Tama was born, a kindly hooman who runs the station's grocery store adopted the kitten.
In April 2006, as the line was losing money, the then-stationmaster was laid off. However, Tama had her eye on that job. Her stick-to-itiveness was favourably noticed by the company, who appointed her "stationmaster" in January 2007.
To no one's surprise, the appointment had
[...] an immediate positive effect, boosting the number of passengers using the line in January by 17 percent from a year earlier.As a result, she was promoted to "super-stationmaster" in January 2008, making her "the only female in a managerial position" in the company's 36-strong workforce.
For the year to March 2007, the number of passengers rose to 2.1 million, up 10 percent from the previous 12 months, according to Yamaki.
"She now holds the fifth highest position in the company," Yamaki joked.A new "office" was part of the package deal negotiated, no doubt, by Tama. See, like all cats, Tama doesn't care to be observed using her litterbox. Her new office, a former ticket booth at the station which was renovated for her, has a ventilator fan and her litterbox, a comfy strawberry-colored bed for her to snooze in, and is glassed off so no one can paw her or otherwise invade her privacy. It was officially opened in April 2008 by Kinokawa Mayor Shinji Nakamura and Wakayama Electric Railway president Mitsunobu Kojima.
The poor little thing must have been commuting back to her hoomin's shed to go potty! Proving, once again, that the Japanese work ethic is tempered by humanitarian &mdash animalitarian? &mdash sentiment, Tama has a work schedule that is far from strenuous.
"She works nine to five and takes Sundays off," Yamaki said.Fortunately, work mainly consists of lying around looking cute while hoomins photograph her.
When Koyama (her hoomin) tells her, "Ms Stationmaster, it's time to work," Tama comes along to the station, Yamaki said.
Tama is so popular that the railway has hired a human, Mr. Nishiyama, to help her with her duties. One of Mr. Nishiyama's tasks is to guide visitors to Tama. Visitors are eager to photograph and videotape the charming little cat, and members of the press often show up wanting to interview her. When Tama puts her forefeet together, the orange pattern on her legs forms a heart-shape. Young couples (and old ones too, probably!) believe that they will be lucky in love if she shows them the heart. Kawaii!
According to the various articles, two other cats work with Tama. It sounds as if they are either her siblings, or her mother and one sibling. Considering that they get free food and shelter, and don't have to wear the silly uniform, it's a pretty sweet gig. The company has also invested in what appears to be a rain cape (or perhaps its just cold-weather gear) for Tama. At least, you can see her wearing a cape in some of her videos.
A souvenir store at the station sells pictures of Tama, and other Tama gear. Be sure to look her up if you plan to travel to Japan! And let us know how that turns out. The town nearby is apparently famous for its strawberries, and a strawberry festival is held there.
Tama has plans to appear in a French documentary film, being directed by Myriam Tonelotto, about wonder cats from around the world.
Video clips of Tama being too cute for words are available here. Stumble It!