TOKYO – A money-losing Japanese train company has found the purr-fect mascot to draw crowds and bring back business — tabby Tama.
All the 9-year-old female cat has to do is sit by the entrance of western Japan's Kishi Station, wearing a black uniform cap and posing for photos for the tourists who are now flocking in from across the nation.
Her job makes cultural sense in Japan, where cats are considered good luck and are believed to bring in business.
Tama has done such a good job of raising revenue for the troubled Kishikawa train line that she was recently promoted to "super-station-master."
"She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place. She is an amazing cat. She has patience and charisma," said Wakayama Electric Railway Co. spokeswoman Yoshiko Yamaki. "She is the perfect station master."
People have been snatching up novelty goods — postcards, notebooks and erasers — bearing Tama's photos.
The cat had been about to lose her place to live, with the nearby store where she was raised being torn down. Now, the station is home.
The Kishikawa line had been losing $4.9 million a year as passenger numbers fell steadily to as low as about 5,000 a day, or some 1.9 million a year.
After Tama's appointment last year passenger numbers have risen by 10 percent to about 2.1 million a year.
In December Tama was rewarded with bonus pay — all in cat food.