Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stationmaster cats and goats

Regular readers of this blog may remember a post I wrote about a cat named Tama who was hired to be the stationmaster of a railway station in rural Japan.

Tama has an office, wears a uniform and greets commuters as they come in and out of the station during rush hour. The cat has become so popular that the railway had to hire a human employee to assist the feline stationmaster. Tama has drawn in thousands of tourists from across the country and has single-handedly boosted the local economy by 1.1 billion yen.

In an attempt to copy the success of Tama, other railway stations in Japan are jumping on the "animal as stationmaster" bandwagon. There are now several cat stationmasters and at least one dog stationmaster. (The dog is a Yorkshire Terrier by the name of Maron, who works at a small railway station in northern Japan. He seems much more agreeable about wearing a full uniform than the cats. The cats only deign to wear the hats.)

In an effort to one-up the kitties, the latest animal to be appointed to the role of stationmaster is a goat called Koma. Koma reports for duty at Uzen-Komatsu station. No word yet on how that's working out.

These animals don't just laze around the station or sleep on the job. These pets are put to work. They work six days a week, eight hours a day. They pose for pictures and entertain their fans. They give TV interviews and attend local events as VIPs. They're treated like real employees. They even have to go to meetings.

Some PR people recently arranged a meeting between Kotora (the feline stationmaster of Kichigahara station) and Bus (the feline stationmaster of Aizu Ashinomaki Onsen station). Unfortunately, the meeting didn't go very well. The cats hated each other.

Only in Japan!

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