Tama Shrine cat priest Nitama


In Wakayama Prefecture, the locals’ love of cats knows no bounds. Not only do they have a cat train stationmaster, but they’ve also promoted one of said feline stationmasters to the chief priest position at a local cat shrine called Tama Shrine.


Wakayama Electric Railway & their cat staff


Famous for its feline staff members, Wakayama Electric Railway has generations of cats that serve as stationmasters for Kishi Station. 

Tama Shrine - The original Tama
The original Tama.
Image credit: @ikuchan773mama

Tama was the first feline train stationmaster in the world, and the calico cat saved Kishi Station from the brink of shutting down due to low ridership in the early 2000s. Though Tama unfortunately passed in 2015, she’s succeeded by her apprentices.

Ever since Tama became the stationmaster, locals and foreigners alike have been flocking to Kishi Station to take a peek at the working cats, as well as to take a ride on the famed Tama Densha train, which is modelled after Tama, of course.

nitama cat priest - Cat train
The cat-themed train’s also a Tama Museum.
Image credit: @stevenkim91

Nitama, the current train stationmaster and successor to the original Tama, is another calico cat who trained at Idakiso Station.

nitama cat priest -Kishi Stationmaster Nitama
Kishi Stationmaster Nitama.
Image credit: @kenji.src

Nitama even has an apprentice called Yontama, which literally translates to “Fourth Tama”. The helpful Yontama helps to cover shifts when the stationmaster has to take a day off.

nitama cat priest - Assistant stationmaster Yontama.
Assistant stationmaster Yontama.
Image credit: @musubi_goen


Super Cat Day


In Japan, 22nd February is known as “Cat Day” as the Japanese numeral for two is ni (二; に). It also happens part of the characters used in the word nyan (にゃん), an onomatopoeia for “meow” in Japanese. Say the date out loud and you’ll sound like a cat meowing – almost.

With this year being 2022, the special day became known as “Super Cat Day”, making the annual celebrations even more festive. 

nitama cat priest - Super Cat Day
Image credit: @haneiro_ff

In commemoration of this paw-some day, Wakayama Electric Railway decided to promote the current cat stationmaster, Nitama, to become the official Chief Priest of Tama Shrine.

Tama Shrine is a shrine dedicated to the original Tama as thanks for the major role she played in reviving Wakayama Electric Railway. The shrine was constructed upon Tama’s passing in 2015.

nitama cat priest - Nitama and the president of Wakayama Electric Railway, Mitsunobu Kojima.
Nitama and the president of Wakayama Electric Railway, Mitsunobu Kojima.
Image adapted from: @ekichoTAMA

Decked out in traditional priest attire, Nitama was proudly presented to the world as the Chief Priest of Tama Shrine.

nitama cat priest - Pink cat
Image credit: @haneiro_ff

According to the videos of the ceremony posted by Twitter user @ekichoTAMA, Mitsunobu Kojima, President of Wakayama Electric Railway, shared that he hopes Nitama’s appointment as the new priest would help to bring peace and “brighten the world that has been darkened by the pandemic”.

nitama cat priest - Cat wearing priest robes with Wakayama Electric Railway President
Image credit: @haneiro_ff


Cat priest Nitama of Tama Shrine


Nitama is now one of the only cat priests in the world, and she has been going a great job blessing cat lovers who visit her shrine so far. May the Tama legacy live on well!

Also check out: 


Cover image adapted from: @ikuchan773mama and @haneiro_ff

Follow The Smart Local Japan on Facebook, Instagram and Telegram for more stories like this.