The first woman to compete for a world’s title in billiards, Masako Katsura, born on March 7th, 1913 in Tokyo, Japan, shattered the boundaries of one of the world’s most popular sports by making a name for herself in billiards, a traditionally male sport, wowing crowds of thousands around the world and making an absolute fortune as her star rose ever so high. But as soon as she appeared, Masako vanished into history. So desperately little is known of the later years of this true trailblazer, all but forgotten until very recently. Masako Katsurais recognized as The 1st Lady of Billiards but she preferred it if people simply called her, Katsy.
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Why is Masako Katsura Famous?
In 1950s, a Japanese woman named Masako Katsura took the world of billiards by storm and made a name for herself in this traditionally male-dominated sport. The Wing/Twitter Masako Katsura was the first woman to compete in the international snooker scene, making her a legend.
When was Masako Katsura Born?
Moreover, Masako Katsura was born on March 7, 1913, in Tokyo. Little is known about Katsura’s childhood in Japan. Katsura had three sisters and one brother. Her father died when Katsura was 12, and she went to live with her older sister and her sister’s husband, Tomio Kobashi, who owned a pool hall.
What Does Masako Mean in Japanese?
The name Masako is girl’s name meaning “proper child”. Brought into prominence as the name of the Crown Princess of Japan.
Did Mai and Masako have a Relationship?
Mai (舞; Mai) is a thief and one of the conspirators responsible for the Adachi Massacre. She is a former servant of the Adachi clan and a secret lover of Masako Adachi.
The Deligent Child Of Tokyo-Masako Katsura
Very little is known of Katsy’s early life in Japan. We know she had three sisters and a brother, her father dying when she was very young. She went to live with her elder sister and her husband, Tomio Kobashi. He owned a billiard parlour and Katsy loved every minute in the parlour. But it was more than a hobby for her, it became her passion – by 13, she was spending all her free time in the billiard room and by 14, she was working there as a billiard attendant. Not many people walking through the door expected to see a young teenage girl working in a billiard parlor, but it was right where she wanted to be.
Then Masako Katsura Turned Professional and Began Touring with a Sister all over Japan
This was a family that adored billiards. Katsy was winning tournaments but so were Noriko and Tadako, two of her sisters. Katsy wasn’t a lone wolf, she had her sisters and together they were awesome. Across Asia, their names were being spoken of in hushed tones. There’s a group of young women from Japan… and they can play. And that was an understatement.
In 1937, Masako Katsura where Katsy met Kinrey Matsuyama, who had won Japan’s national three cushion championship on many occasions. He was also American national champion in 1934 and runner-up on three separate occasions, not to mention four second-place finishes in world competition. Simply put, if you wanted to make a name for yourself in billiards, you couldn’t get much better than Kinrey. And he was greatly impressed by the talent 24-year-old Katsy had. She was phenomenal. She was already Japan’s only female professional player.
The Japanese Sensation-Masako Katsura
Kinrey began coaching Katsy and she continued to find success in Japan and across Asia, but it was in 1947 when Katsy caught the eye of the Americans. The war had largely halted her career but she was eager to get back to the table thereafter. Vernon Greenleaf was an American serviceman, a master sergeant in the army for some 22 years. Katsy and Vernon met in a club in Tokyo. It was like the stuff of film noir legend.
It was here he first saw her. She was playing in the club every night to cheering crowds. She was astonishingly talented. Her exhibitions were legendary, every shot captivating. Katsy began to give Vernon lessons and was soon smitten with her. What started out as a few lessons led to so much more. On November 30th, 1950, they married. What a story to tell your friends.
In the December of 1951, she debarked in San Francisco. There was no going back now…
Now the World Shall See
Tales of Katsy’s brilliance had spread and she was invited to play at the 1952 World Three Cushion Billiards Tournament by the legendary American carom billiards player Welker Cochran. He had won the world crown of three cushion billiards in 1933. And 1935. And 1937. Oh, and 1938. And 1944. And 1945, too. He sent his son, W.R., to Japan to investigate Katsy and upon returning to America, he told his fatherHe wasn’t happy. No, I am better than some girl from Japan! Let her come to the championships and prove herself. She gave a private exhibition for Welker because he wanted to see if ‘she was as good as W.R. said she was’. At the exhibition, she clicked off runs of 300 and 400 at straight rail. “She made almost unbelievable shots,” Welker later said. “She’s the most marvellous thing I ever saw… she’s liable to beat anybody.
The Greatest of All
10 champions were slated to play in the round robin format tournament.There were 45 games to be played over 17 days. The tournament was billed as ‘the greatest billiard field since before World War II’ and whilst ‘since before’ is not the best English, what mattered was the money. First place won $2,000 or around $20,000 in today’s money. This was a big deal. Second place won $1,000 – in fact, the top eight all received prize money, although eighth was just $250.
And so, in 1952, Katsy and Cochran began an exhibition tour across America. Katsy was played up as an ‘exotic, beautiful woman’. Mainly to sell tickets. She was very small, weighing just 88 pounds or 40 kilograms and stood at just five feet or 1.5 metres tall. At the table, she wore a kimono with high heels. She played to the crowd that adored her. Between shots, she would smile and wave at the crowd. In her day, she was 1 of the biggest and most famous celebrities in all of America, she really was.
The California Girl-Masako Katsura
After the 1953 championship, Masako Katsura went back to exhibitions, many in California. It was the last time Katsy ever played with her mentor, Matsuyama. Shortly after this exhibition, he returned to Japan where he suffered a heart attack and died on December 20th, 1953. He was just 53. He planned to move to Hawaii with his wife and children and open a billiard parlour. Sadly, it never happened. Katsy was devastated but she loved to play billiards. She threw herself into the game and trained her focus on her third attempt at the world title: the 1954 championships of Buenos Aires. There were just eight contestants. But it was a tough field and Katsy knew it.
The Eternal Billiards Star
Katsy was 63 when she was next seen in public. It was 1976 and she made a surprising appearance at Palace Billiards in San Francisco. Many people remembered her, a pioneer of women’s billiards who went toe-to-toe with the greatest men’s players who ever lived. Katsy borrowed a cue from somewhere and proceeded to run 100 points at straight rail without problem. Robert Byrne, a prolific bool and billiard author, said: Without a slip she smiled and bent to the clapping crowd, walking away from the spotlight and vanished forever from the American billiard stage.
The Champion of the World-Masako Katsura
Some might say that because Masako Katsura never won a world title she wasn’t successful or even a great player. That could not be any less true. In her’s day, she was 1 of the biggest and most popular celebrities in America, one of the most naturally gifted billiards players who ever lived who wowed crowds of thousands in vast touring exhibitions she staged, all with her famous smile, fierce determination to succeed and her passionate drive to advance women’s involvement in cue sports. Her legacy is almost unfathomable. She truly deserves the title, ‘The First Lady of Billiards’.
Japanese cue sport legend, Katsura blazed a trail for women in the sport by competing and placing among the best in the world of professional billiards, dominated by men. After marrying an American soldier in 1950, she emigrated to America exhibiting alongside the greats of the day such as eight-time champion.
In World 2021 – Masako Katsura
In the world we live in, in 2021, it is impossible to realise just how important she was. When you see women play a cue sport today, or even when you see women in pool and snooker halls, until Katsura came along, that was scandalous and many hated the thought. The fact that she did it but was met with love and adoration proves what a kind, generous, formidable and intelligent soul she had.
Katsura was all but forgotten after 1995 but never in Japan. But on March 7th, 2021, as part of the 2021’s International Women’s Day celebrations, Google featured a Google Doodle honouring Katsura. And I read so many people on Twitter asking the most obvious of questions: who? Masako Katsura, that’s who.
Not only The First Lady of Billiards but one of the sporting world’s most remarkable and astonishing individuals.
Masako Katsura Famous For
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Masako’s date of birth?
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