December 9, 2022

Masako Katsura was born on March 7, 1913, in Tokyo, Japan. She was born in the Japanese city of Tokyo. She is known as the “First Lady of Billiards” since she is a well-known billiards player. In 1952, she became the first woman to win the World Three-Cushion Billiards Championship.

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Information about yourself:

She was born in Tokyo, Japan. Masako Katsura Biography claims that she lived with her father till his untimely death when she was 12 years old. She had three sisters and a younger brother. She began living with her older sister and her better half during this time. At the age of 37, she married Vernon Greenleaf, a United States sergeant, and relocated to the United States. They didn’t have any children together.

Billiards Professional Career:

Masako Katsura learned to play pool from Tomio Kobashi, the owner of a billiards club. He’s her husband’s brother-in-law. She began working there during her senior year of high school, completing her specialisation. She began her career as an excellent pool player at the age of 15, competing in and winning co-ed tournaments in Japan and China. Kinney Matsuyama, a former three-time National Billiards champion of Japan and a U.S. public champion, began teaching her in 1937.

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Immigration to the United States:

Greenleaf was transferred from Haneda Air Base in Tokyo to a US position in 1951. 

He and Katsura, who spoke little English, boarded the USS Breckinridge and arrived in San Francisco around the end of December 1951, just a few months before the World Three-Cushion Billiards Championships of 1952 were scheduled to begin on March 6. After hearing about Katsura’s beauty from Matsuyama, Cochran, whose billiard saloon was supporting the competition, had given her a restricted invitation to play in the major showdown. Cochran was an eight-time world champion, having won titles in three-pad billiards in 1933, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1944, and 1945, as well as 18.2 balkline in 1927 and 1934. Cochran sent his son, W. R. (Dick) Cochran, a marine officer in Japan, to investigate, and he returned with a glowing report that said (possibly to Cochran’s annoyance), “this young girl is superior to you!” Despite the fact that the Billiard Congress of America had finally obtained the choice as competition support, they gave Cochran the option of welcoming her.

Facts:

Katsura was featured in a Google Doodle on the web search page on March 7, 2021, to commemorate International Women’s Day.

Katsy is a nickname she has earned for herself.

She is often regarded as the best female athlete of all time.

Who Was Masako Katsura?

Masako Katsura was a legend. A world-class female billiards player, she conquered a game that only men were playing. Because of this, she trail-blazed for other women to not only be included in the sport, but to make a serious contribution.

Masako “Katsy” Katsura was the first woman in history to show up on the international billiards stage. In a traditionally male-dominated sport, she was an unprecedented opponent who quickly made a name for herself in Japan. From there she started to conquer the rest of the world as the “First Lady of billiards” competing – and winning – in international tournaments, regardless of her opponent.

Early Days In Tokyo

masako Katsura

Image: @theenlightenedcreative on Instagram

At the early age of 14, Masako Katsura stared playing billiards. She was born in Tokyo in 1913, and grew up in a strict household. After her father passed away, her mother became even more watchful over her, and encouraged her to take up billiards.

Masako had issues with her health from an early age.

 She had little strength, and felt tired all the time. Because of this, her mother wanted her to take up billiards to make her stronger, both mentally and physically.

Tokyo in the 1920s was quite the time for billiards. Masako Katsura’s brother-in-law owned a pool hall, which was instrumental in the discovery of her natural talent. Naturally, she got a job at the billiard hall, and started to practice her craft every single day.

She won her first championship at 15 years old. Because of this, she attracted the attention of Japan’s champion at the time, Kinrey Matsuyama. Known also as the Japanese Willie Hoppe, Matsuyama started to coach the young Katsura. He was also responsible for her introduction to three-cushion billiards.

With her knack for trick shots and a newfound precision with three-cushion billiards, Katsura brought grace to the sport, and started paving a path beyond her wildest dreams.

Taking Her Game To America

masako Katsura

Image: @marist_multicultural_affairs on Instagram

World War II had a damaging effect on Katsura’s rising star. 

She optimized her career however she could, first by performing a one-woman show for Japanese troops. After the war, she shifted to performing billiard tricks for American troops.

Because of this, her international career was born. News spread quickly of her skill and grace, and a champion by the name of Welker Cochran invited her to visit the USA.

In 1951, Katsura moved to California. It was shocking to her to see the lack of women on the scene at that time. In Japan, women worked and played in billiard halls all over the place. This was not the case in the USA. American billiard halls were for men, by men, and clearly known as a male domain.

The First Lady Of Billiards

masako Katsura

Image: @realhistoryuncovered on Instagram

Katsura started working with Welker Cochran as her manager. He advocated for her in media, saying things like:

“THE GAME HAS NEEDED A WOMAN PLAYER WITH SKILL ENOUGH TO COMPETE AGAINST THE GREATEST OF MEN PLAYERS. AND I’M CONVINCED NOW THAT IT’S FINALLY GOT JUST THAT.”

The press, however, gave more attention to her gender than her abilities. One paper even called this incredible champion “a real Japanese cue-tee”.

Fortunately, other billiards players gave Katsura the respect that she deserved. As she started to play more and more champions, she rose up in the ranks. As she did, both the media and her adversaries looked on in awe.

After she paved a way for women in the sport, she became a face of billiards all over the world. Through the 50s, she ranked near the top in all of her international tournaments, winning and placing successfully, regardless of her gender. In 1961, however, she retired after a hard loss to Harold Worst, the reigning world champion.

She was the first woman to compete in an international billiards tournament, making her literally “the First Lady of billiards” and a staple of billiard history.

Masako Katsura & A Legacy That Lives On

masako Katsura

Image: @kijanmustard on Instagram

Masako Katsura opened a new field for women. She had the “power of a man”, while also making the sport more attractive to women.

Katsura made her last appearance in 1976 at a San Francisco billiards parlour. She grabbed a cue, scored a 100-point run, then basically disappeared. By the ’70s, a group of players formed the Women’s Professional Billiard Association, and inducted Katsura into the Hall of Fame.

masako Katsura

Image: @women_creating_change on Instagram

After moving back to Japan, Masako Katsura passed away in 1995. The impact she’s made on the sport of billiards, as well as culture in general, is outstanding. So much so, in fact, that she’s now regularly depicted in pop art, articles about powerful women who’ve made an impact, and she even has her own Google Doodle animation! In fact, you can buy the book about her here as well!

masako katsura

Image: Google Doodles

Thank you “Katsy”. We bow to your contribution, and honour your tenacity.

Related: Polish your skills! Here are the best places to play pool in Toronto!

In the 1950s, a Japanese woman named Masako Katsura took the billiards world by storm — and made a name for herself in the traditionally male-dominated sport.

Masako Katsura

The Wing/Twitter

Masako Katsura was the first woman to compete on the international billiards stage, making her a legend.

In 1952, the undisputed king of billiards Willie Hoppe faced an unprecedented opponent:

 a female player. Masako Katsura had not even been born when Hoppe won the first of his 51 world championships, but she quickly made a name for herself in Japan.

And Katsura eventually became an international sensation, bringing her decades of experience in Tokyo’s billiards halls to the world stage, as the first woman to compete in international tournaments.

For American billiards players, Katsura seemed to come out of nowhere. 

And while the press marveled over Katsura’s outfits and the novelty of a female player, her opponents marveled over her skill.

This is the story of how, in the 1950s, Masako Katsura became known as the First Lady of Billiards for breaking the gender barrier in the popular sport.

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Who Was Masako Katsura?

Masako Katsura was 14 years old when she started playing billiards. Born in Tokyo on March 7, 1913, Katsura grew up under the watchful eye of her mother, particularly after her father passed away. And Katsura’s mother told her to take up billiards.

“I was weak and I was tired all the time,” Katsura said. “So my mother wanted me to play billiards to give me exercise and make me stronger.”

In the 1920s, billiard halls were popular in Tokyo. Katsura’s brother-in-law even owned one. Once she picked up a cue, Katsura discovered her talent for the sport. It wasn’t long before Katsura started working at the billiard hall and practicing every day.

From her earliest days, Katsura had a knack for trick shots.

At 15, Katsura won the Japanese women’s straight-rail championship. The teen’s skills attracted the attention of Japan’s reigning champion, Kinrey Matsuyama. Matsuyama became Katsura’s coach and introduced her to three-cushion billiards.

Exhibition Featuring Masako Katsura

Long Beach Press-Telegram

A 1953 advertisement for an exhibition featuring Masako Katsura.

The tricky sport required precision. Players had to touch the rail cushion three times with the cue ball while hitting two object balls. Expert players might hit double-digit points in one turn. World champion Hoppe held the record for the highest-scoring turn, at 25 points.

It was a game known for power. Men slammed the cue into the balls to rack up more points. But Katsura brought finesse to the sport.

Masako Katsura Moves To America

World War II halted Katsura’s billiard career. During the war years, she performed a one-woman show for the Japanese troops. After the war she shifted her focus, performing billiard tricks for American troops.

Those performances helped launch Katsura’s international career. One American G.I. wrote home to his father, billiards champion Welker Cochran, about Masako Katsura. He declared, “This girl is better than you are!” Cochran reached out, encouraging Katsura to visit the U.S.

Before she did, Katsura won the national women’s billiards tournament and started competing in the national men’s championship.

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