Somewhere in Wakayama lives a marketing genius. I'm referring to the individual who came up with the idea to assign the title "Station Master" to a living, purring, calico cat named Tama.
Not only has Tama saved the local train line, but putting her various images on merchandise must be a cash cow for the city of Wakayama. Speaking as but one recent visitor, I put down a ten thousand yen note in the Tama shop and left without it.
When you go to Wakayama's main train station, on the walls are mascot pictures of Tama and paw prints on the ground lead you in the direction of the Tama Line. My daughter and I did not know what to expect but as we boarded the train we were full of anticipation.
She read a train board that indicated Tama had to go to the veterinarian that day, and second in command Nitama (meaning "Second Tama" or "Tama #2" ) would be filling in for her. When we got off at Nitama's stop, we had to wait a few minutes, but very soon a train conductor showed up with the beautiful, long-haired calico cat in his arms.
A Chinese tour group rushed around them excitedly. I was really surprised at the calmness of this cat. She seemed completely unruffled by the bustle about her. She posed for many photos and listened to plenty of oohs and aahs in a matter-of-fact manner. She was really cute.
We next decided to ride the train to the last stop and see the Tama Museum. It was located inside a small cafe in a little train station adorned with cat ears. Adjoining this was the amazing Tama shop where I easily parted with all that yen.
When I finished spending, we boarded the Tama train for our return trip. Images of the Tama mascot character covered the outside of the car, but since many trains in Japan are very colorful, we didn't think too much about it until we stepped inside.
We had never seen a train car like this! The interior was beautiful, decorated with a polished wood floor dotted with occasional paw prints, cheerful Tama wallpaper, settee loveseats in feline-patterned fabrics, and a large wooden bookcase filled with cat-related books. It was impressive and fun. My hat is off to you, creator of all that is Tama!
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