Mari Kato was born in Obihiro, Japan, and studied at the Musikhochschule in Köln with Tiny Wirtz, and at the Musikhochschule in Hanover with David Wilde. She attended the masterclasses of Paul Badura-Skoda and Sergey Dorenski and was awarded First Prize at the Beethoven Piano Competition in Sapporo in 1987 and at the International Piano Competition in Lugano in 1991.
As a soloist, Kato has performed with the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Sapporo and the Sapporo Symphony Orchestra, working with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Hubert Soudant, Johannes Kalitzke, Tadaaki Otaka, Michael Boder and Joji Hattori. She is a regular guest at international music festivals, performing with artists such as Benjamin Schmid, Luz Leskowitz, Thomas Riebl, Vladimir Mendelssohn, Lars Anders Tomter, Julius Berger, Andreas Brantelid, Christine Hoock, Joris Van den Hauwe, Johannes Hinterholzer, the Kocian Quartet and the Amati Ensemble. From 1995 to 2000, she taught at the Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, and since 2000 has been teaching as a collaborative pianist at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.