Cat in the Hat makes $10 Million for Town

With so much to see in this world, you never know what will strike a chord with people – you could spend millions to attract tourists without success, and then along comes a cat in a hat.  ‘Only in Japan’ you say?  These days, who knows…

KISHIKAWA, Japan (CNN) — Tama is a 9-year-old calico cat, who used to live a simple life hanging out at the train station next to her home at the grocery store.

Tama the “Super Stationmaster,” in her hat cocked at a rakish angle, has become a sensation.

But with the addition of a hat, usually worn at a jaunty angle, she’s become a local, national and even international star.

Tama’s home of Kishikawa in Japan is an isolated town of just a few thousand people, the last stop on what had been a failing train line.  

That all changed when the Wakayama Electric Railway decided to use Tama as a mascot.

They called her a “Super Stationmaster,” made a promotional poster for train carriages and gave her that stationmaster’s hat.

Now tourists flock here to see the cat and to snap a picture. Watch Tama greet passengers at the station »

“It’s a chance to take a break from the problems facing Japan,” said Haruto Maeda, who took the day off work to see Tama.

As well as their cameras, visitors are bringing their cash. A study at Osaka University found that Tama fever was responsible for pumping $10 million into the local economy.

Tama merchandise abounds, empty train carriages are now full and the line is no longer facing bankruptcy. The town of Kishikawa is enjoying an economic turnaround amid the national and global slowdown.

Tama now lives full-time at the station, with her mom and a friend.

She’s the prize of the town’s locals who say that in these tough economic times they’ll take a gift horse — or cat — wherever they can get it.

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