Today, it’s difficult to imagine the world without the internet. But just over a half-century ago, the world was very different. The internet only began to take off in the late 1990s, and before that most people relied on phones with limited functionality and no attachments. One woman who helped make this possible is Masako Katsura.
Who was Masako Katsura?
Masako Katsura was a Japanese billiards player and commentator who helped popularize the game in Japan during the 1970s. Katsura also served as the head official for the World Women’s Billiards Championship, which is now celebrated every two years.
Born in 1935 in Ibaraki Prefecture, Masako Katsura began playing pool at an early age. Originally trained as a mathematician and physicist, she quickly became one of Japan’s top billiards players after learning the game from her father. In 1964, she won the women’s division of the World Professional Billiard Championship, and over the next few years made several more appearances at major tournaments.
In 1971, Masako Katsura founded Japan’s first pool magazine, Aikido no Shinbun (The Monthly Review of Aikido), which aimed to introduce new players to the sport. She also served as its editor-in-chief until 1972. In 1973, she teamed up with journalist Kozo Yamashita to create Peajack Productions—the country’s first television company devoted exclusively to show billiards tournaments and other sporting events. The venture proved successful, and Peajack Productions stayed on air for 12 years.
In 1976, at the behest of then–Japanese Minister of Education Morihiro Hosokawa (a noted pool enthusiast), Katsura created a training program for school girls called “Pool Sensei Course for Girls
The Triumph of the Japanese Carom Billiards Players
When Masako Katsura’s book The Triumph of the Japanese Carom Billiards Players was published in 1981, it was a revelation. It chronicled the history of Japanese billiards and revealed the forgotten woman behind its development.
Katsura played pool from an early age, winning tournaments on a regular basis. She was encouraged to study engineering, but instead decided to focus on becoming a professional player. She teamed up with several other female players and formed the first all-female billiards team. They went on to dominate the competition, winning dozens of tournaments and championships.
The book made Katsura a household name and inspired others to pursue their own passions in fields such as music, art, and athletics. It also helped usher in a new era of gender equality in Japan – something that continues to thrives today.
The Forgotten Woman Behind the History of Pool
Masako Katsura is one of the unsung heroes of the history of pool. Katsura was born in 1878 in what is now Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. At a young age, she demonstrated an uncommon ability at the game of pool. It wasn’t long before she became its leading exponent, and by 1922 she was considered one of the world’s best players.
Despite her prowess on the table, Masako Katsura largely remained anonymous throughout her life. She lived primarily in obscurity, largely avoiding publicity and interacting with other professional Pool players only through match play or exhibition events. In 1953, at the age of 83, Katsura became the first woman to win an international amateur championship title.
Today, Katsura is more well-known than ever thanks to a recent biography written about her by journalist Billiards historian Harvey Penick. Penick has also spearhead a campaign to award Katsura with a prestigious internationalPool tournament title known as “The Lady Player of The Year.”
A Look Into the Future of Pool
There is a woman who is largely unrecognized for her contributions to pool history, and that woman is Masako Katsura. Katsura was born in Japan in 1908, and she soon became interested in the game of pool after watching a fellow student play. She started playing herself at a very young age, and quickly became one of the country’s leading players.
Katsura had many accomplishments during her career as a pool player, including winning multiple championships and setting several world records. Her most famous victory came in 1946 when she won the World Nine-Ball Championship by defeating American player Babe Ruth Ellison 3-0 in the final match. However, it was her role as an educator that will truly be remembered by future pool players. Katsura was responsible for founding the Japanese Pool Association (JPA) in 1954, which would go on to become one of the most influential organizations in the sport.
As a result of her work with the JPA, Katsura was named Honorary President of World Pool-Billiard Federation (WPAF) in 1990. She also served as president of both WPAF Women’s Division (1965-1968) and Asian Confederation of Billiard Associations (ACBA) (1991-1994), receiving honorary membership status from both organizations during her tenure. In addition to her many achievements within the pool community, Katsura was also active outside of it. She served as a delegate to several international committees, including those for more articles.