Masako Katsura was a Japanese woman who was also called “the first lady of billiards” and is widely known for her credibility.
She was a proactive woman in the 1950s, competing in male-dominated professions around the world. However, Katsura has earned a massive reputation in her profession.
Let’s find out how she started her career and why she never married anyone in her life, when she moved to the United States and when she died, we will enter her life to know important facts about her.
The early life of Masako Katsura
Born in 1913 in Tokyo, Japan, Masako was raised in her hometown by her mother since her father tragically died.
She was interested in sports since childhood and started her career in billiards.
Her mother supported her through thick and thin, and her mother suggested that she continue her profession with billiards.
Katsura said, “I was weak and tired all the time, so my mother wanted me to play billiards to exercise and get stronger.”
Pool halls were famous in Tokyo in the 1920s, and one of the halls was owned by Katsura’s brother-in-law.
Katsura began to discover her talent and soon realized her interest in billiards and sports.
From then on, she started practicing hall work every day with passion and determination to follow her mother’s dreams.
She fought and practiced to build better credibility to achieve high goals.
Therefore, due to her consistent practice at a very young age, she had a knack for trick shots.
She was just 15 years old when Masako Katsura was honored with the Japanese Women’s Flat Track Championship.
Her skill caught the attention of reigning Japanese champion Kinrei Matsuyama, and soon Matsuyama took Katsura under his wing as a coach, before introducing her to three-cushion billiards.
Katsura moved to America to pursue her career
Katsura emigrated to California in 1951 and found a different environment compared to Tokyo.
In Tokyo, she played in a hundred pool halls among women.
It was a male-dominated pool hall in California, and she had to compete with the men with her exceptional skills.
Katsura said, “I’ve only met one female pool player in the time I’ve been here. Here, a pool parlor is considered a place for men… You know, if someone had a pool parlor for women only, that would be good.”
When she was driven by her billiards career, the European wars prevented her career and she appeared in the war only to represent her country.
Katsura performed a one-woman show for Japanese soldiers during the war; she then moved to perform pool tricks for American soldiers.
Her performance during the war brought her international recognition and she was encouraged to develop her career internationally.
One American G.I. he wrote home to his father, pool champion Welker Cochran, about Masako Katsura, saying, “This girl is better than you!” Cochran reached out and encouraged Katsura to visit the U.S.
Before her appearance in the wars, she won the national women’s pool tournament and began her journey to compete in the men’s national championship.
Her international journey to success
In the 1950s, she established herself on the pool scene and increased her career.
With her credibility, Champion Welker Cochran became Katsura’s manager, telling the paper, “The game needed a player with enough skill to compete with the greatest of the male players. And now I’m convinced it’s finally happened.”
In newspapers, Katsura was highlighted across the country and the media cared more about her gender than her skills.
One paper even called the champion “a real Japanese cue”.
A second media person described Katsura as “a little lady…a wad of a woman who looks like she’d have trouble blowing off a feather, but who can instead explode billiard balls or act like punished children.”
However, the other pool players respected her, and Willie Hoppe said: “I was told in the East that she was good, but I never expected to see anything like that. The girl is amazing. He’s going to win his fair share of games against the best of them.”
She broke gender barriers
In 1958, Masako Katsura made a name for herself in her career, appearing on TV shows and receiving high rankings in international tournaments. However, Katsura retired after a heavy loss to the reigning world champion in 1961.
In 1976, Masako Katsura showed up at a pool parlor in San Francisco, picked up a cue and ran to 100 points.
In the 1970s, billiards changed. And after seeing a successful female pool competitor, a group of players formed the Women’s Professional Billiard Association.
How did Masako Katsura die?
After retiring in 1990, Katsura returned to Japan and lived with her sister Noriko, planning to live out her days. After living with her sister Katsura for five years, she died in 1995.
However, the Katsura Memorial: The First Ladies Three Cushion Grand Prix was held in Japan and aired on SKY PerfecTV! in 2002, called the memorial tournament for Katsura.
There is no doubt that she has built a huge reputation in her career and is now remembered as the first lady of billiards.
Katsura was honored in the Google holiday logo
She was featured in Google’s holiday logo on the search engine’s homepage to pay tribute to her on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021. The holiday logo described her biography and achievements throughout her career, describing her as a woman who will be known for her influential career . and exceptionality.
Doodle’s official website reads: “The First Lady of Pool! Thank you for supporting this sport for generations of women to come.”
Challenges of the 1952 World Three Cushion Pool Tournament:
In 1953, she participated in the World Three Cushion Pool Tournament and achieved her milestone in the tournament. The fact is that the tournament brought her huge success and reputation around the world.
More importantly, she became the only girl to compete after Ruth McGuinness after ten years and was then invited to the Probilliards (1942 New York State Championships).
Willy Hoppe, who was 64 at the time and also competed in the event, was the previous champion. According to pre-event speculation, if Hoppe and Katsura played together in the competition, Katsura would not score 10 points in a 50-point game.
Many people attended the tournament, including Katsura, her trainer and friend Matsuyama, Willy Hoppe, Joe Camacho (from Mexico), Herb Hardt (from Chicago), Arthur Rubin (from New York), Joe Proquita (from Los Angeles), Ray Kilgore (of Los Angeles), Jay Boseman (of Vallejo) and Irving Crane (of Binghamton).
Everyone was supposed to fight everyone in a duel. The fact is that all 45 games were played in Cochrane’s “924 Club” and the tournament lasted 17 days until March 22, 1952.
Not surprisingly, then, the first prize was $2,000 plus a large show fee, and the following prizes were $1,000, $700, $500, $350, $300, $250, and $250, up to eighth place.
Willie Hoppe won that championship and retired after successfully defending it in 1952.