Image Courtesy: Google Doodle
Little Tama (29 April 1999 – 22 June 2015), also known as Tama-chan, was a calico cat who served as the stationmaster of Kishi Station, a small rural train station in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture.
She was born on 29 April 1999. Tama was originally a stray cat who lived near Kishi Station. In 2007, when the station was struggling financially and faced closure, the stationmaster at the time, Toshiko Koyama, decided to adopt Tama as the official stationmaster in order to attract more visitors. Tama was given a special cap and uniform, and a small office was built for her to sleep and eat in.
After Tama became the stationmaster, the station’s fortunes turned around. She became a media sensation in Japan, with people from all over the country traveling to Kishi Station to meet her. Tama’s face appeared on train tickets, souvenirs, and other merchandise, and she was even named a “tourism ambassador” for the region.
Tama passed away on 22 June 2015, at the age of 16. Her death was widely mourned in Japan, and a funeral was held in her honor at Kishi Station. She was succeeded as stationmaster by another calico cat named Nitama, who was trained by Tama and continues to serve in the role today.
Tama’s legacy lives on in Japan and around the world. She is remembered as a beloved symbol of Kishi Station and the Wakayama region, and her story has inspired books, documentaries, and even a train-themed amusement park called Tama Land. Tama’s success as a stationmaster also helped to popularize the concept of “cat cafés” in Japan, where people can enjoy the company of cats while having a cup of coffee or tea.
On 29 April 2017, Google celebrated Tama’s 18th birthday with a doodle.