Translated by Kayoko Windle
Tama, The Feline Station Master Welcomes You! Kishigawa Line, Wakayama
Written by MATCHA
The Kishigawa line running in Wakayama is famous for its cute feline station master, Tama. Many people have fallen in love with this cat! This article is all about the unique trains modeled after the cat train master, strawberries, and toys!
Cute Eye-catching Trains: the Kishigawa Line
Many may think of the Kishigawa line on the Wakayama railway when asked about the cutest trains in Japan.
This short railway covers a distance of only 14.3km, and has four trains to it: the Tama Train, loved by everyone, the Omocha Train, which is sure to tickle your childlike curiosity, the cute Ichigo Train, and the new, luxurious Umeboshi Train.
Let's take a look at these adorable trains!
Special Measures Taken to Avoid Closure
In 2006, the Kishigawa line of the Wakayama railway was facing closure due to a decrease in the number of customers. However, when local residents raised their voices against the closure, several strategies were formed to help the line come back to life. These cute trains are part of this strategy.
The one who really determined the comeback of the line though was Tama, the first feline station master ever in the world.
Tama: the Super Star Behind the Revival
In 2007, the Kishigawa line started being well-known not only across Japan, but also all over the world when Tama the calico cat was appointed as the station master. Tourists rushed there to see Tama, and the number of people coming to meet this special representative of the line helped to ensure the comeback of the line itself.
Sadly, the first Tama passed away in 2015 and now the second Tama follows in its place, helping to keep the tradition of the cute Kishigawa line alive.
The Four Unique Trains on the Kishigawa Line
1. Ichigo Densha
The first and leading train that made a comeback on the line was the Ichigo Densha, or the Strawberry Train in English. It came about in 2006 and was inspired by strawberries, a specialty of Kishi Station, which is the last station on the Kishigawa line. This train has a two-tone body in red and white; each strawberry is brightly painted on the pure white train body, while a bronze plaque with a strawberry on it adorns the front of the train. The Strawberry Train won a special award in the 5th Japan Railway Awards too.
The interior of this train car is made from wooden materials, and as the name suggests, there are strawberries everywhere - right down to the fabric of the seats themselves. It's just like the strawberry fields that you can view while visiting Kishi Station.
The seating on the Kishigawa line trains is quite unique as well. You may find yourself feeling like you're sitting in your living room thanks to the wooden shelves, tables and chairs that adorn these trains.
2. Omocha Densha
This is the second special Kishigawa line train, which came out in 2007. The Omocha Densha or Toy Train, was designed with a childlike curiosity in mind, and has colorful exterior using the primary colors. But what about the interior?
The seats look like mice, rabbits and even dogs. It goes without saying that children just love riding on this train.
The handholds are colorful too.
Also as the name indicates, there are plenty of toy capsule machines on the train too, as well as displays showing off a wide variety of toys and figurines, all of which are sure to have kids of all ages feeling excited.
3. Tama Densha
The star of the Kishigawa line is, of course, the Tama Train! This cute train has cat ears and whiskers, and was modeled after Tama, the first feline station master known for its lovely orange, white and black coloring. Even though it came out in 2009, it soon became the representative train of the Kishigawa line.
There are many illustrations of Tama the Station Master all over the body of the train - in fact, there are 101 completely different drawings, all with unique facial expressions!
The interior has a warm atmosphere with an orange color. The seats with cat pictures use the same three colors as Tama. It is very cute!
Of course, we can never forget the first Tama. There is a bronze memorial plate for Tama the Station Master on the train as well.
Even after her passing, she has still quietly accompanied customers, ensuring their safety.
4. Umeboshi Densha
The Umeboshi Densha, or Plum Star Train, is a brand-new train that has just started running in June 2016. It was designed to feature another specialty of Wakayama prefecture: plums.
Just like the interior of the Strawberry Train, the Plum Star Train has a charming wooden interior and fabrics and other materials featuring plum blossom designs throughout.
There are also plenty of items related to Tama the Station Master on the shelves of this train as well.
One of the special features of the Plum Star Train is the single cat-shaped ring. No other trains have this! If you find this strap, hold onto it tightly, and Tama the station master just might bring you some good luck.
Although we have shown four kinds of trains in this article, we wish to point out that there are only three trains that run each day. Please refer to the Kishigawa line web page beforehand, or ask the station staff for the train schedule to check when your favorite train will be running.