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Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Tuesday, 27 May 2008 13:36 UK

Cat puts Japan rail firm on track

Tama on duty at Kishi station
Tickets please! - Tama works nine to five and takes Sundays off

A loss-making Japanese railway company is back on track thanks to the popularity of a stray cat.

Wearing a black cap and posing for photos with passengers, Tama is credited with boosting Wakayama Electric Railway's revenue by 10%.

The firm had to axe all staff at Kishi station in western Japan two years ago.

But Tama stuck by her post and was rewarded with promotion to station manager. The pet mascot even has her own office, a former ticket booth.

The feline, who was born and raised at the station in the city of Kinokawa, Wakayama prefecture, is living proof of the Japanese belief that cats are good luck.

Map

"She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place. She is an amazing cat. She has patience and charisma. She is the perfect station master," said Yoshiko Yamaki, a spokeswoman for the rail company.

The nine-year-old - who receives cat food in lieu of a salary - won national stardom last year when the firm formally appointed her as "station master".

Since then passengers have been gradually returning, recently rising 10% to about 2.1 million a year.

The cat has spawned a range of popular merchandise, including a picture book called: "Diary of Tama, the Station Master."




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