Japan's feline train-station master dies
TAMA, a popular calico cat which had been the station master of Kishi train station in Wakayama prefecture's Kinokawa city since 2007, died on Monday.
It was 16, which is equivalent to about 80 in human age, reported The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Wakayama Electric Railway, which runs the Kishigawa line, announced on Wednesday that Tama will be given the title "honorary permanent station master".
The company will also hold a funeral service for it at the station on Sunday.
The Asahi Shimbun reported that mourners were leaving flowers at the station.
Tama had been hospitalised after it fell sick due to nasal inflammation last month.
With the regional railway losing money, the Kishi station lost its last human employee in April 2006, passing on the mantle to Tama, which delighted in strolling around its office wearing the uniform cap of the company, reported Agence France-Presse.
Tama, which was originally a stray cat fed by the previous station manager, proved a hit with visitors, said the Japan Probe news website.
According to one study, in 2007 alone, its presence boosted the number of people travelling on the line by 55,000, injecting 1.1 billion yen (S$12 million) into the local economy.
Tama was a "tourism superstar, extremely popular in and out of Japan, that contributed greatly to promoting tourism in our prefecture", Yoshinobu Nisaka, governor of Wakayama, said in a condolence statement.
"I am filled with deep sorrow and appreciation," he added. AGENCIES