Playing at Augusta National for the eighth straight time, the 36-year-old Katayama took the lead role in the Asian challenge for a first-ever win in a major with six birdies and just the one bogey in his five-under 67.
With a third of the 96-strong field having completed their opening rounds, Katayama moved a stroke clear of early pace-setter Tim Clark of South Africa, who is bidding to become the the first player to win both the par-three contest and the main event in the same year.
"The wind was light and it was easy for me to play and I did well," said Katayama, wearing his trademark cowboy hat.
"My best score here previously was 70 and I was able to beat that today. I was lucky enough that I started early and the greens were soft."
Clark, second here to Phil Mickelson in 2006, went out in one-under 35, but three birdies on the back nine ensured him a 68.
Woods, playing in the penultimate grouping of the day, was all business as he parred the first five holes before taking a bogey at the par-3 sixth.
Chad Campbell, meanwhile, got off to a storming start, becoming the first player in Masters history to birdie the opening five holes. He stayed there to reach the turn in 31.
Clark, looking to make it two in a row for South Africa after Trevor Immelman's triumph last year, said he had drawn confidence from his win in the fateful par-three contest on Wednesday.
"We had receptive greens and they certainly didn't play the course at its full length," the 33-year-old from Durban said.
"It certainly set up well for me but as the week goes on it sets up harder for a guy who hits like me."
Fisher said he was disappointed to finish with two bogeys.
"But for a first Masters appearance and first tournament round, to walk off this course with a 69 and feel slightly disappointed I've got to be pretty happy with that," he added.
There were encouraging starts also for Greg Norman, playing at Augusta for the first time in seven years, and twice former winner Bernhard Langer. Paired together they both came in with two-under 70s.
Playing the Masters for the 52nd and last time, 73-year-old Gary Player went out in a remarkable one-over 37, but a double-bogey six at the 10th set him back and he came in with a more than creditable 78.
Another player to run back the clock was 1987 champion Larry Mize, who was five under through 14 holes.
World No.2 Phil Mickelson bogeyed the opening hole but grabbed the dropped shot back at the next hole and was one-under at the turn the same as Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who is shooting for a hat-trick of major wins.
American legend Arnold Palmer set the ball rolling for the third straight year by smacking a ceremonial drive up the fairway of the par-four first before retiring to watch the action.
Woods came into Augusta hot on the heels of his victory at Bay Hill, his 66th career tournament win on the US PGA Tour and first since returning to action in late February following eight months on the sidelines to recover from major surgery on his left knee.
The world No. 1 is seeking his fifth Masters title, which would be one short of the Nicklaus record of six green jackets, and his 15th major title, three short of the all-time best of 18, once again the property of Nicklaus.
Source: AFP American Edition