Feline stationmaster takes on a new role at a special ceremony.

In Japan, 22 February is known as Cat Day, due to the fact that “ni”, the number two in Japanese, appears in the word “nyan” (“meow”), making the 22-2 date sound like “nyan, nyan, nyan”.

This year, with the date being 22-2-22, or “nyan, nyan, nyan, nyan, nyan”, Cat Day became known as “Super Cat Day“, amping up the annual celebrations even further, and making anything possible for the feline community.

In one rural town, it became the perfect date to herald in a new shrine priesta cat called Nitama.

▼ Nitama

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Nitama is the famous stationmaster cat at Kishi Station in Wakayama Prefecture. Nitama — yes, the “ni” in the name means “two” — is the successor to Tama, the original stationmaster cat, who sadly passed away in 2015.

▼ Tama

Tama was so beloved by commuters, and the station’s operating company, Wakayama Electric Railway, that 3,000 mourners attended the traditional memorial service that was held for her. The company even set up a small shrine dedicated to the cat, who was said to have played a major role in the regeneration of Wakayama Electric Railway, due to the number of visitors she attracted.

▼ The torii gate at the front of Tama Shrine can be seen on the station platform, to the left of this photo, next to the cat-wrapped train.

Tama’s spirit lives on at the station, not only at the shrine named after her, but in the feline-shaped design of the building, which has her name displayed proudly on top.

Due to its longstanding cat connection, Wakayama Electric, and its cat-loving president Mitsunobu Kojima, decided to celebrate both their beloved felines on Super Cat Day by officially appointing Nitama as the Chief Priest to Tama Shrine.

All the big media outlets were at the scene to capture the moment when Nitama took up the position as Chief Priest, with the cat dressed in the same garb usually worn by human priests on formal occasions.

In the video below, Kojima can be seen presenting the cat to the shrine while saying, “Nitama will work hard as Chief Priest of Tama Shrine“, adding a “nyao” (“meow”) at the end to make it seem as if he is speaking on behalf of the cat.

▼ Nitama lets out a “nyao” or two of her own, which prompts Kojima to remark, “Oh, your spirit’s really into it, isn’t it?

Following the ceremony, Kojima continued to act as Nitama’s human representative by unveiling an official board detailing the history of the shrine…

…and creating goshuin, special slips of paper stamped with seals that are traditionally given to visitors of Shinto shrines in return for a small fee of around 300 yen (US$2.61).

▼ Nitama, who has the patience of a priest, will continue to work as stationmaster whilst taking on priestly duties.

Kojima says he hopes Nitama’s new appointment will help to bring peace and “brighten the world that’s been darkened by the coronavirus”. Judging by the smiles on all the visitors and journalists at the official ceremony, it looks like Nitama’s priestly ways are already making the world a brighter place, spreading joy around the country from this rural station.

Source: Twitter/@ekichoTAMA via NHK News
Featured image: Twitter/@ekichoTAMA
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!