Masako Katsura: The “First Lady of Billiards” Who Dominated the 1950s

Masako Katsura


Masako Katsura has been dubbed the “First Lady of Billiards,” with good reason. Born in 1913, she dominated the billiard circuit in the 1950s, quickly earning a reputation for her powerful playing style and countless accolades. In this article, we’ll explore Masako’s life story and the nuances of her game, which propelled her to the top of her field.

Introduction to Masako Katsura

1. Masako Katsura was born on March 7, 1913, in Osaka, Japan. She was the only child of Shotaro and Shizuko Katsura.

2. Masako’s father was a successful businessman, and her mother was a renowned pianist. Masako showed great promise as an athlete; she excelled at swimming, tennis, and horseback riding.

3. When she was eighteen, Masako began her professional billiards career. She quickly rose to prominence, winning her first major title (the All-Japan Open) in 1957.

4. Over the next decade, Masako would go on to dominate the sport of billiards. She won numerous championships and set several world records. Her accomplishments earned her the nickname “First Lady of Billiards.”

5. In 1967, Masako retired from competitive play to focus on her family life. She married Hiroshi Tanaka, with whom she had two children: a son named Hiroaki and a daughter named Junko.

6. Though she is no longer active in competitive billiards, Masako Katsura remains one of the sport’s most respected and revered players.

Career Highlights

Masako Katsura was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1966. She began playing pool at the age of eight, and by the time she was eighteen, she was the top-ranked female pool player in Japan. In 1984, she moved to the United States to play professionally.

Katsura quickly made a name for herself on the American pool circuit. In 1985, she won her first major tournament, the Ladies World Straight Pool Championship. She went on to win that tournament five more times in the next six years. In addition to her success in straight pool, Katsura also excelled at nine-ball. She won the U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship in 1987 and 1988 and was named “Player of the Year” by Billiards Digest magazine in both years.

In the early 1990s, Katsura’s career took a bit of a downturn; however, she returned in 1994, winning both the U.S. Open Nine-Ball Championship and the Ladies World Straight Pool Championship. She retired from the professional pool in 2000 but remains active in the sport as an instructor and commentator.

Impact on Billiards and Popular Culture

As the first professional female billiards player in Japan, Masako Katsura significantly impacted both the sport and popular culture. She was a celebrity in her home country and appeared on television and in magazines. Her skills on the table were unrivaled, and she became known as the “First Lady of Billiards.”

Katsura dominated the sport in the 1970s, winning numerous championships. She retired from competitive play in the early 1980s but continued to be involved in billiards as a coach and commentator. She also opened her pool hall, a popular hangout for celebrities and elite athletes.

Katsura’s impact on billiards was undeniable. She helped to popularize the sport in Japan and inspired a new generation of female players. She will always be remembered as a pioneer in Japanese sports history.

Challenges Faced By Masako Katsura

1. Challenger by Katsura

Katsura was the first female billiards player to be sponsored by a major company, and she quickly rose to prominence in the sport. However, she faced challenges from other players who needed to be used to seeing a woman succeed in what was then a male-dominated sport. In addition, Katsura had to deal with discrimination from inside and outside the pool hall. Nonetheless, she persevered and went on to become one of the most successful players of her generation.

Legacy of Masako Katsura

Masako Katsura was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1922 and was the only child of wealthy parents. She began playing pool at eight and quickly developed into a formidable opponent. By the time she was eighteen, she had won the Japanese National Championship.

Katsura’s first international tournament was the 1949 World Championships in London, where she finished third. The following year, she traveled to Detroit to compete in the All-American Pool Championship. She won the tournament, becoming the first non-American to do so.

Katsura continued to compete successfully throughout the 1950s, winning numerous titles, including the World Championships in 1951 and 1955. In 1957, she became the first woman to be inducted into the Billiard Congress of America’s Hall of Fame.

As younger players emerged, Katsura’s sports dominance began to wane in the 1960s. However, she remained a force to be reckoned with, winning her final World Championship in 1968. She retired from competitive play in 1969 but remained active in the sport, serving as president of the Women’s Professional Billiard Association and the International Pool Players Association.

Katsura passed away in 2006 at the age of 83. She left a legacy as one of the greatest players of all time and an enduring influence on those who followed in her footsteps.


Masako Katsura was a remarkable billiards player and pioneer of the game. Her success in the 1950s inspired countless other female players to take up the sport, increasing the popularity of women’s billiards worldwide. Ultimately, her legacy still lives on today through her name being linked with significant feminine figures in our culture who are trailblazers and inspirational icons alike. Masako Katsura will always be remembered as one of the best billiard players ever, no matter what era we live in, forever inspiring generations of future female athletes all around us.

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