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Who is Masako Katsura?
She was a former professional billiards player from Japan. She gained recognition as one of the pioneers of women’s billiards in the mid-20th century. Masako Katsura was known for her exceptional skill and expertise in the game of pool, particularly in the discipline of nine-ball.
She achieved numerous awards throughout her career and played a vital role in promoting women’s billiards. Her contributions to the sport have left a lasting impact, inspiring future generations of female players.
Life Journey of Masako Katsura
Masako Katsura was born in Tokyo, Japan, on November 26, 1913. She spent the early part of her life in Japan. Katsura developed an interest in billiards at a young age and started playing the game in her early teens.
Katsura had a brother and three sisters. When she was 12 years old, their father passed away, and she moved in with her older sister and her sister’s husband, Tomio Kobashi, who ran a pool hall. By the age of 13, she was visiting her brother-in-law’s pool hall, and by the age of 14, she was a pool attendant there.
She learned the principles of several carom billiards games from Kobashi, who was a skilled player. In addition, Katsura’s family maintained a billiards table at her house because of her keen interest in the game. After continuous practice, Katsura started competing against Japanese guys.
Katsura, who was only 15 years old, won the Japanese women’s straight rail championship. In a 1959 interview, Katsura stated, “Then I turned professional and started touring with a sister all over Japan, China, and Formosa.” Her sisters also won the title for women’s straight rail.
In 1947 Katsura met an American serviceman Vernon Greenleaf who was a master sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps for 22 years. They fell in love at a Tokyo service club where she was performing billiard exhibitions. Greenleaf started taking lessons from Katsura and fell in love with her. They decided and married on November 30, 1950, but never had kids.
Achievements After Marriage
During the marriage, Katsura had previously won two second-place places at the national three-cushion competition in Japan. In the year of her marriage, she won second place a third time.
Around that time, she managed the impressive accomplishment of nursing the balls around the table 27 times in around 4- 5 hours to score 10,000 consecutive points at the straight rail in an exhibition.
She stopped at 10,000 points because of the benchmark round number. Later in life, she recalled that her highest run in a three-cushion pool (the total number of points she earned in a single inning without a break) was 19.
Journey in the US
Greenleaf migrated from Tokyo’s Haneda Air Base to a U.S. position in 1951. Before finalizing the invitation, Cochran requested a private performance from Katsura when she arrived in the country. Cochran wanted to be sure she was as good as described.
She produced runs of 300 and 400 at the meeting on the straight rail, made “almost unbelievable shots” when going to the balkline, and showed excellent proficiency at three-cushion, routinely scoring.
“Finalizing the invitation, Cochran declared, “She’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw. She can beat anybody, even Willie Hoppe. I did not notice any weak points. She’s going to frustrate a lot of those players. In February 1952, Katsura performed a number of pool demonstrations as a warm-up for the contest.
Promoting Women’s Billiards
She played a pivotal role in promoting women’s billiards and challenging societal norms and barriers. During her career, female players faced limited opportunities and recognition. Katsura’s success and determination inspired other women to pursue the sport and helped elevate the status of women’s billiards.
Recognition and Legacy
We cannot neglect her achievements and impact on the sport of billiards. She became an iconic figure in billiards, both in Japan and internationally. Her skill, talent, and perseverance paved the way for future generations of female players, who continue to benefit from her trailblazing efforts.
The First Lady of Billiards
Masako Katsura is the “First Lady of Billiards” or the “First Lady of Pool.” These titles recognize her significant contributions to the sport of billiards, particularly in promoting and advancing women’s billiards.
Katsura’s skill, success, and perseverance helped elevate the status of women in a predominantly male-dominated sport, paving the way for future generations of female players. Her impact and legacy have solidified her status as a trailblazer and an iconic figure in the world of billiards.
Billiards Exhibitions for American Soldiers
During the post-World War II era, Masako Katsura, the Japanese billiards player, performed billiards exhibitions for American soldiers stationed in Japan. These exhibitions served as a form of entertainment for the soldiers and allowed Katsura to showcase her exceptional billiards skills to a broader audience.
Her performances provided entertainment and helped promote the sport, and inspired interest in billiards among the soldiers. Katsura’s exhibitions for American soldiers further solidified her reputation as a talented and influential figure in the world of billiards.
Mass Media Coverage of Masako Katsura
Masako Katsura gained significant media coverage and recognition for her achievements and contributions to the sport of billiards, particularly in Japan. Although specific details and sources might not be readily available, here are some general aspects of her media coverage:
Katsura’s successes and skill in billiards were probable in billiards-focused publications and magazines of the time. These publications would have highlighted her tournament wins, high-level performances, and her role as a pioneer for women in the sport.
Her groundbreaking achievements likely garnered attention from mainstream news outlets in Japan. Newspapers and magazines may have covered her accomplishments, providing updates on tournament performances and breaking gender barriers.
As television became more popular, Katsura might have appeared on talk shows, sports programs, or variety shows, showcasing her billiards skills and sharing her experiences as a female player in a male-dominated field.
Local and Regional Coverage
Her success in billiards would have likely received coverage at the local and regional levels, particularly in Japan. Regional newspapers and magazines might have highlighted her achievements, contributing to her growing reputation and inspiring local communities.
Last Stage of Life
In the year 1990, Katsura moved back to Japan to live with her sister Noriko, where she claimed she intended to spend her remaining years. She died on December 20, 1995. The First Ladies Three Cushion Grand Prix, a tournament in her honor, was staged in Japan in September 2002 and broadcast on SKY Perfect TV.
The First Lady of Billiards and a trailblazing Japanese player broke gender barriers in the sport. She is known for her exceptional skills in the discipline of nine-ball, and Katsura’s talent and determination inspired future generations of female players.