Mie Wakayama: Station Master Cat Tama, Wakayama Castle [Trip Day 4.1] たま駅長・和歌山城

  Trip itinerary and map

For our next destination in Wakayama, we would be going to meet Tama the Cat, who holds the post as the “station master” of the rural train line Wakayama Electric Rail Kishigawa Line (和歌山電鉄貴志川線).

Station Master, Tama the Cat (たま駅長)

Many rural train lines in Japan are facing closure due to low number of passengers. Kishigawa Line was facing the same problem, but the company president came up with this idea of assigning a cat as one of the station staff. It’s job is, quoting his original words, “just being there, doesn’t have to do anything” (「何もしなくてそこにいればいいよ」). And together with some clever marketing, this became a hugely popular tourist attraction, and the train line was saved from the risk of closure serving dwindling numbers of local commuters.

In Kishi Station there’s a Tama-themed cafe and a souvenir shop selling various Tama goods. The only other main place of interest nearby is a farm for strawberry-picking but it’s closed on our day of visit (as it was on a weekday), otherwise it isn’t much different to any other normal rural town in Japan. As the weather is nice and we still had some time before the next train, we took a walk around. (At least one good thing is most tourists don’t venture out of the station much so it’s still peaceful elsewhere).

Wakayama Castle (和歌山城)

Back in Wakayama, there was still some time before evening. After sorting out our Tokyo-bound train tickets, we saw a sign for Wakayama Castle “20 minutes away”, so thought might as well go for a look. Well, turned out that’s more like time required if you run.

After all the walking we took a bus back to the station. Ahead of us would be a 4-hour plus train ride. We had to get dinner first, and we came across an excellent local Izakaya next to the station.