Masako Katsura: The Legendary Queen of Billiards

One such trailblazer is the Japanese billiards player Masako Katsura, who, in the 1940s, broke through barriers based on gender and made an enduring impact on the sport’s history.

Masako Katsura

The struggles Masako Katsura overcame and the triumphs that made her the Queen of Billiards will all be covered in this article.

In the traditionally male-dominated sport of billiards, several pioneering female players have overcome expectations and gender norms to achieve legendary status.

Masako Katsura’s Early Life and Introduction to Billiards

Masako Katsura was born on November 3, 1913, in Tokyo, Japan. She spent many formative days in her family’s billiards room, watching her father and older brother play the game. She became interested in the sport because of the balls’ motions and the angles at which they collided. When she was 12, Katsura started playing pool independently, perfecting her skills and creating her style.

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Rise to Fame

Her father soon became aware of Katsura’s skill and commitment to the game and urged her to participate in billiards competitions. Women were not permitted to compete in formal tournaments against males until the 1930s, restricting their opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. Unfazed, Katsura started fighting against other women, taking home multiple tournament victories and developing a reputation as a formidable opponent.

Despite her accomplishments, Katsura encountered prejudice and distrust from many male players who questioned her skills and refused to compete against her. Yet Katsura’s perseverance paid off when she was invited to participate in an exhibition match against the reigning world champion, Willie Hoppe. The game was a complete success, and Katsura demonstrated her skill as a competitor, winning respect and admiration of her peers.

Masako Katsura’s Trailblazing Career

After defeating Hoppe, Katsura was given further opportunities in the billiards scene, and in 1949 she became the first woman to win the Japanese National Billiards Championship. After she broke further records, she was dubbed “The First Lady of Billiards” after winning the title six more times. Katsura was also the first female competitor in the World Professional Billiards Championship, placing fifth.

Katsura had a distinct playing style that was distinguished by her accuracy, quickness, and use of English, a trick that includes striking the cue ball off-center to change its course. Generations of female pool players have been inspired by her skill at the game and her groundbreaking career, which paved the way for them to compete in and excel in a sport where males predominate.

Masako Katsura’s Legacy and Honors

In the 1960s, Masako Katsura stopped competing professionally, but she kept up her recreational game. She expired on June 17, 1995, leaving a legacy that encouraged future women to follow their dreams and challenge gender norms. Katsura’s position in billiards history was established in 2004 when she was elected to the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in honor of her contributions to the sport.


The life of Masako Katsura is a testament to greatness, tenacity, and resolve. She overcame prejudice and gender-based barriers to break new ground in the billiards industry, inspiring later generations of women to follow their interests and realize their goals. Her legacy lives on, inspiring and empowering women in athletics and beyond while serving as a constant reminder that anything is possible with effort and commitment.


What were some of Masako Katsura’s signature playing styles?

Masako Katsura was known for her English playing style, which involved striking the cue ball off-center to cause it to spin and alter course after striking the object ball. Her shots were swift and precise due to her exceptional speed and accuracy.

How did Masako Katsura’s career impact women’s participation in billiards?

The career of Masako Katsura significantly influenced how many ladies played pool. Her success and achievements discredited the stereotype that women lacked the skills or ability to play the game at a high level. She cleared the way for other female pool players and encouraged a new group of women to play the game they love.

When and where did Masako Katsura win her first Japanese National Billiards Championship?

Masako Katsura was the first woman to win the Japanese National Billiards Championship when she did so in 1949. Six more championships were won by her throughout her tenure.

What other honors and awards has Masako Katsura received for her contributions to billiards?

Masako Katsura was recognized for her contributions to pool not only by being inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2004 but also by receiving additional accolades and awards. She received the Medal with Purple Rosette from the Japanese government in 1986 in recognition of her exceptional sporting accomplishments.

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