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Japanese railway appoints feline "stationmaster"

May 27, 2008 |  7:34 pm

Tama_the_railway_cat_4A train station in Kinokawa, Japan, is unstaffed. But there's now a cat on watch.

Tama, a 9-year-old tortoiseshell who liked to hang out in the station after it went unstaffed because of declining revenue, rose to national stardom when the train line appointed her "stationmaster" last year, Agence France-Presse reports.

"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.

This talk of good luck brings to mind the "Maneki Neko," the Japanese tradition of the Beckoning Cat, which is considered good luck. You've probably seen the figurines of the cat, like the one here, with its left paw raised.

Beckoning_cat_8 But getting back to Tama. It's hard to know how serious the company is when it credits her with boosting ridership, saying that it promoted the feline to "super-stationmaster" in January, making her "the only female in a managerial position" in the company's 36-strong workforce."

"She now holds the fifth-highest position in the company," an official joked to AFP.

Tamu sometimes wears an official-looking cap and sits on top of a ticket gate greeting riders. Kind of like a bookstore cat with more responsibility and, we think, a higher pay grade.

But not so, according to AFP, which says she is compensated in food, not salary.

-- Tony Barboza

Photo of railway cat: Toru Yamanaka / AFP / Getty Images

Photo of figure: Kevin P. Casey / For The Times

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