Calling all cat lovers! Meet Love, the stationmaster cat of Ashinomaki Onsen Station in Fukushima's historic Aizu region! Yes, you read that right: 5-year-old Love is the head honcho at this station and follows in the paw-steps of Stationmaster Bus as he protects passengers with his watchful eye; whilst you're not allowed to hold Love, you are however more than welcome to give him a fuzzy pat on the back and tell him what a good job he's doing! But he doesn't need us to tell you that: we managed to gain exclusive access to Stationmaster Love for a one-on-one interview in which he shares some of the ups and downs of what is quite a paws-on job. Take it away, Love eki-chо̄!
How long have you been Stationmaster of Ashinomaki Onsen Station?
Bus served as the station's first stationmaster cat from 28 April 2008 until I took over the job on Christmas Eve 2015. Stationmaster cats usually serve for about 12 years, you know!
How exactly did you both become stationmasters?
Stationmaster Bus was a stray who used to wander about town before he was brought to the station by a concerned elementary school student: the rest is history. I on the other paw was brought in by a friend of the station.
What's the best thing about being a stationmaster?
Most of the hard work is taken care of by the human station staff so stationmaster cats get to take it easy. I'd say going for walks outside (on patrol, of course!) is the most fun.
In that case, what's the worst thing?
It's great when we have lots of passengers pass through our station, but I do get a little frightened by loud voices!
You've been a stationmaster for quite some time now: do you have any particularly fond memories or funny stories?
We have lots of passengers passing through our station, not just from Japan but from all over the world including Asia, Europe and the U.S.; it makes me so happy to think just how far they've come to see me!
What's it like working with your human colleagues? Do you get on well?
Working day in, day out with the cute stationmaster cat that I am, my colleagues are always upbeat and motivated to keep the station in order.
What is it about the Aizu region that made you want to work there? What's your favourite thing about the Aizu region?
Stationmaster Bus was already famous when I was younger, so when the time came for a new stationmaster I didn't hesitate. Aizu's a really great place because you get a true feel of each and every season: in spring it's pretty pink Sakura cherry blossom; in summer it's the new green leaves; and the comes the beautiful reds, oranges and yellows of autumn!
Where or what do you recommend people see when they come to Aizu?
Good question! For history it's got to be Tsuruga Castle and Iimori Hill; Nanukamachi-dori too still has that traditional old-town charm. Of course you can also hop on the Aizu Railway and visit me at Ashinomaki Onsen Station for a little feline loving, or have lunch in Ouchi-juku before enjoying the local nature at Tō-no-Hetsuri.
What kind of things do you have to do as a stationmaster?
Well, as I work directly with passengers I have to make sure I look purr-fect without fail: hair, nails, everything! Not to mention that as my main job is to look after our passengers, it's imperative that I look approachable.
How do you feel about your celebrity status?
I'm working hard to stay in good shape so that I can serve passengers forever! That is my goal.
Click here to find out more about the Aizu region that Stationmaster Love, Station Facility Manager Peach and a yet-to-be-named kitten apprentice call home!