While there has been plenty of deserved excitement over the recent European Smackdown, hosted by Crime City Rollers in Malmö, it is not the only groundbreaking tournament happening this year.
If European Smackdown showed that Europe is now ready to compete in the highest levels of WFTDA play, then Kokeshi Roller Dolls' Japan Open Tournament, March 25 and 26 shows that Asia is now firmly emerging onto the International Derby stage.
The Japan Open Tournament is the first ever Asia-Pacific Roller Derby tournament. Played under WFTDA rules, the tournament will involve teams from Japan, USA (Alaska), Australia, New Zealand and, in a late change, Denmark (teams from China and Hawaii had to pull out during the tournament's organisation). Comprehensive Park Arena in Okinawa will be the host venue, with free admission to all spectators, as this is also something of an outreach opportunity for the sport. There's actually two tiers to the tournament - an 'A' tier, featuring WFTDA Member Leagues and WFTDA Sanctioned bouts;and a 'B' tier, which features mostly non-WFTDA members, or B-teams, and is not Sanctioned.
Roller Derby actually has quite a long history in Japan; American influence seeded previous incarnations of the game in the 20th Century, and a Japan-native version ("RollerGame" or "RollerGame Japan") was popular in the country in the early 1990s, and then again in the early 2000s. (In fact, this weekend - March 19th and 20th - sees RollerGame Japan come to the USA in an expo event hosted in Santa Monica).
The WFTDA Japanese Roller Derby community dates back to 2010/11, when both Kokeshi Roller Dolls and Tokyo Roller Girls were founded around the American military bases in Japan. Since then, each of the leagues or teams which has emerged has also been nucleated around American military presence: there is now derby in Tokyo (including at least one team, Kamikaze Badass, which is not associated with Tokyo Roller Girls), Yokosuka, Zama, Yokota, Misawa and two leagues in Okinawa. The community is actively attempting to recruit Japanese skaters, especially in Tokyo, which has had a Japanese team since 2012; it was skaters from Tokyo Roller Girls who also managed the creation of the Team Japan which competed in the 2014 Blood & Thunder World Cup.
The Japan Open Tournament has been planned for some time; it has been the goal of Kokeshi Roller Dolls to hold such a tournament from early in their WFTDA certification process.
You can read about the teams attending the Japan Open in the next pages in this guide.
If you're planning on viewing the Japan Open, our handy viewing guide (with a different page for every timezone with a team) may be in useful. Click here to access it: VIEWING GUIDE.
Adelaide Roller Derby are one of Australia's long-established roller derby leagues, dating from 2007. Their A-Team, the Adeladies, have played basically every other league in Australasia, although the Japan Open is their first venture outside of that arena.
With an FTS ranking of 650.1 (WFTDA), the Adeladies are possibly the strongest league attending the tournament, and are the favourites to win the Championship.
Adelaides' Captain Elle Catraz had this to say to us: "Adelaide Roller Derby are thrilled to be sending their WFDTA representative skaters to participate in the Japan Open Tournament in Okinawa.
Japan will be the farthest that Adelaide Roller Derby has travelled to bout and we are extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to play against and watch teams from around the world.
Our season doesn't officially kick off until early April so this will be our first bout of the season. Our skaters chose not to have much of an off season in preparation for this tournament, but it will be all worth it when they hit the track.
Training wise, we had skaters travel to Queensland to participate in the Derby Fest training camp during January along with the whole league having the pleasure of being trained by Scald Eagle and Stefanie Mainey in February.
This will be the first time many of our skaters have travelled to Japan so our team have enjoyed team bonding sessions over Japanese food, while learning important Japanese phrases we can use both on and off the track.
We are also extremely proud and grateful to bring the tournament two of our extremely committed referees.
The Adeladies take great pride in representing their entire league when they travel and the Japan Open will be no exception. "
Elle Catraz #46 (Captain)
Armed Bandit #777
Blue Wrenegade #2880
Ankle Grinder #91
Fury of Fenrir #24
Frill Seeker #32
Bam Bam Belial #29
Anne T Social #886
Maiden Hell #206
Harry Smyles #2
Referees Chris Durant and Slaíne are also attending the tournament, as part of the officiating teams.
Pirate City Rollers (roster) are the strongest of Auckland, New Zealand's leagues, founded way back in 2006, as the first league in the Southern Hemisphere. They have continued to establish firsts in roller derby since then. Full WFTDA members since 2013, Pirate City have mostly played in games in the Australasian region, although they attended the 2015 Beach Brawl, where they did better than expected (as is usual for a non-US team!), despite only winning against hosts Gold Coast. Their B team, the Broadside Brawlers, is the team competing at the Japan Open, however, and there's much less known about them.
With no FTS rating (the A team resides at 587.1(WFTDA)), it is hard to predict how the Brawlers will do against their competitors.
Pirate City B are scheduled to play Killa Geishas of Misawa and the JRDA Expo team, Nippon Senbatsu, in the B tier of the tournament.
Brawlers Captains Drop the Pom! and RumpleStinson told us "The Broadside Brawlers are extremely excited to be attending their first tournament. We have been training hard and are looking forward to making the Pirate City Rollers proud. We are looking forward to meeting some great new people and playing new teams, picking up some new tricks along the way and getting experience of international Derby."
RumbleStinson #33 (Captain) [Shirley Stinson]
Kid Vicious #711 (Bench) [Devan Jackson De Toit]
Manic Street Creature (Lineup) [Mars Coombes] Block Ness Monster #23 [Vanessa Rancour]
Crash Test Honey #100 [Celia Langabeer]
Holly Golightly #10 [Holly Brady]
Linda ShoveLACE #76 [Sal St Clair Brown]
Mad Kao #92 [Grace Kao]
Nikalicious Vicious #11 [Nikki Henderson]
Pnut Butt Her and Jam #247 [Andrea Kelly]
Poppy Kneecaps #0 [Kirstie Kawana-Waugh]
Shepard #345 [Abbie Jay]
Sledge Hannah #42c [Hannah Creek]
SufferKater [Katie Miles]
Devil Dog Derby Dames (roster) are the second of Okinawa's Roller Derby leagues, founded by the personnel and spouses around the Marine Corps bases on the island. They have been WFTDA members since 2014. They attended the Wild West Showdown in 2015, where they lost narrowly to fellow Open attendees Juneau Rollergirls; a rematch between the two is on the cards here.
With an FTS rating of 506.8, DDDD are one of the lower rated teams in the 'A' tier of the competition, although all of the Japanese A-tier leagues have close ratings so contests are hard to predict.
The Devil Dog Derby Dames' Home team is also competing in the tournament, in the 'B' tier. Lacking a rating, it is hard to predict their performance. They will be taking on similarly unrated Killa Geishas of Misawa, and the JRDA exhibition team "Nippon Senbatsu".
The Devil Dogs told us: "This tournament is something that the Devil Dog Derby Dames past and present have been looking forward to for the past 5 years. Okinawa has Derby, we're here to stay and kick some ass!"
Luke Garcia (All-Stars Head Coach)
Steve Sapion (All-Stars Coach)
Zack Helms (Home? Head Coach)
Joseph Purdy (Home? Coach)
Ohio Skate #7
Milla Dropabich #55
Little Bo Reap #85
DodgeHer Dollie #mc49
Grimm the Reaper #626
Brutally Scrumptious #850
Nucleah Bombshell #1759
Gnarly Quinn #13
Honey Badger #67
Malicious Mare #509
Dorothy Wail #205
Kit Killher #15
Iron Maiden #323
Sailor Juke'N'er #777
Rollin' Purdy #713
Ball Buster #27
Knuckles Tesla #1856
Hannabelle Deck'd-her #33
Rosie the Ripper #402
Ankle Biter #256
Flex Luthor #314
Referee Craig Nakagawa and Announcer Pete Daigle are also being contributed by DDDD.
Copenhagen Roller Derby (roster) are part of the long established and active northern European Roller Derby community, founded in 2009. WFTDA full members since 2013, Copenhagen are probably one of the most experienced teams in the competition in terms of "bouts played", thanks to the sheer density of nearby leagues. However, the team has not played outside of Europe, and the long travel may be a test for them. In the last year, CRD have been ramping up their experience, notably defeating Edinburgh's Auld Reekie B by a significant ratio late last year.
With an FTS rating of 536.5, Copenhagen are mid-placed in the A tier of the tournament, but will only face the Japanese leagues in that tier, all of whom have lower ratings.
Copenhagen's Durakill Bunny had this to say on the team's feelings about their first International engagement. "We are extremely excited to travel to Japan and take part of this tournament.
The Japan trip was a Unique opportunity for the CRD A-team to have a very special goal to work towards. Not only in terms of derby skills and preparing for the games, but also in terms of working really hard and closely together on raising funds and organizing the trip. Everyone on the team have contributed to this the way they best could and we really feel that this have made us stronger together.
In terms of or skills on the track, we have definately upped our game. In December we had a bootcamp with Juke Boxx from London rollergirls and in February we had a bootcamp with Scald Eagle from Rose City Rollers. Both bootcamps helped us to identify important ares to work with and implement new derby techniques. In February we arranged a scrimmage with a Division 1, team Crime City Rollers which gave us a lot of learnings that we could bring into our training.
We are all extremely excited to get the chance to travel to Japan as a team and even before we have left Denmark, we feel that this has made us a better and closer team than we have ever been before. Travelling to Japan is without doubt a very exotic experience for all of us and we will all spend time before and after the tournament to explore the country."
Wicked Wawwa #70 (Co-Captain)
AC Dizzy #10
Yaya Woosh #19
Ragna Rockette #321
Miss Vojens #34
Durakill Bunny #42
Juggernaut Jelly #510
Sofie Bay #55
Laughing Out Lizzie #707
Juneau Roller Girls (roster) are the only league in Alaska's capital city. Founded in 2010, they joined WFTDA as an Apprentice league in 2013, graduating to full members in 2014. They are one of only two WFTDA ranked teams in Alaska.
It's difficult to develop a firm ranking for them, as they are part of the "Alaskan island" of Roller Derby leagues in the state, playing each other far more than they play the rest of the continent. However, their A team did attend Wild West Showdown in February 2015, where they played fellow Japan Open attendees Devil Dog Derby Dames to a close win, despite having only 5 skaters on their roster! (This connection was also the seed for their attendance at the Open, which also serves to provide the team with more games while their home venue is out of commission.)
With an FTS rating of 542.7, Juneau are mid-placed in the tournament. They will be playing all three big Japanese leagues - hosts Kokeshi, Tokyo Roller Girls, and Devil Dog Derby Dames - in A-tier bouts that we expect to be pretty close, but which should result in success for the Alaskans according to the stats. Juneau are bringing along only a tiny roster of 6 skaters, however, so their games will be more of an endurance contest than normal.
Juneau's Captain Just Julie told us: "Preparing to compete in the Japan Open feels like a fairy tale in the making for Juneau Rollergirls... the opportunity to play in this tournament is such an honor for our All-Stars. This is the kind of experience that our derby dreams are made of. We were so impressed with how the Devil Dog Derby Dames rolled at the Wild West Showdown last year and I can't wait to meet more of Japan's roller derby community. One of the most satisfying aspects of traveling with my team is that in some small way we are coming together to support all the awesome athletes, outstanding officials and visionary volunteers out there who are dedicated to the growth and development of our sport. Seeing how we contribute to something so much bigger than ourselves was an empowering realization for geographically isolated teams like ours. I feel so fortunate to be sharing this experience with my teammates and it will be an honor and a privilege to serve my team as Captain. While some of our league-mates aren't able to make this trip, I know that all the hard work and derby love the league has invested in each other this season will be out there every time the Juneau Rollergirls hit the track. All in! All season!"
Just Julie #11 (Captain) [Julie Sanbei]Shane Kruse (Bench)
Shredlock Holmes (Bench)
Fatty Dook #2 [Alicia Gillis]
Catapult Kim #3 [Kim Glasow]
Skatie Brite #22 [Katie White]
Titan Young #25 [Stephanie Kruse]
Hevee Mettle #71 [Evelyn Widmyer]
Tokyo Roller Girls (roster) are mainland Japan's first Roller Derby league, dating from 2010. The league now incorporates the teams in Yokota and Zama, as well as its founding location in Yokosuka. Although founded by American services personnel and spouses, TRG have actively promoted and recruited in the Japanese population as well, and nowadays have good recruitment outside Americans - and two additional teams in Tokyo and Yokohama which are primarily Japanese nationals, one of which is Co-ed. TRG members were also instrumental in the creation and selection, under the "Women's Roller Derby Japan" and "Men's Roller Derby Japan" organisations, Team Japan and Ninjapan Rollers which attended the 2014 B&T Roller Derby World Cup and Men's Roller Derby World Cup.
With an FTS rating of 503.4, TRG are fairly low-ranked in the A tier of the tournament. They lost to hosts Kokeshi Roller Dolls the last time they encountered one another, as well as to other Okinawan league Devil Dog Derby Dames. In this tournament, TRG will be looking to show that they can succeed in their scheduled bouts, playing Copenhagen, Juneau and Adelaide.
Tokyo's Captain, Nactmerrie, explained their feelings about the Open. "In order for us to continue being a part of WFTDA, there is a requirement to play other WFTDA teams yearly, which can be difficult. We were so excited when we were invited to the tournament, since we will get to play different teams from all over the world! Most of our girls are from America and are either in the military or a military spouse, but we would love more Japanese skaters! For the upcoming tournament, we have been practicing often and scrimmaging against our men's team; which has been a huge help. We are mostly excited to play teams we have never played before and are hoping to raise our rank as well."
Postlewaight #783 (Alternate)
Femmebot (Head Coach)
Pork Chop (Bench)
Hung Low (Bench)
Scary Thunderwood #1107
The Bash #242
Low Down Derby Shame #4864
Tomahawk Pixie #5280
Bean Town Beat Down #66
Terrin Skirtz #75
ShortStack O'Paincakes #777
Laced Revenge #84
USS DestroyHer #89
Thunder BELL #950
Killa Geishas of Misawa (roster) are one of the smaller Japanese Roller Derby leagues based around US military bases (in this case, Misawa, at the very north end of Honshu). Founded in 2012, the league has survived multiple venue issues over its 4 year life, and also spawned a men's team, the Misawa Rollin' Tanukis.
With no WFTDA FTS rating (and a high uncertainty surrounding their evaluation in the Pacific region (there's only a single bout in the FlatTrackStats database for them, from 2014!)), it's very difficult to say how RGM will do in the tournament. As a smaller league, KGM are competing in the B tier of the tournament.
KGM's SINnamon Challenge told us: 'The Misawa Killa Geishas have had to fight tooth and nail to keep derby alive in the remote North. Our team has fought nonstop for 4 years practicing in changing venues and hospitable weather conditions, which has made us stronger as a team. The chance to play teams from New Zealand and throughout Japan is a chance for us to show others just how much fight we have in us!
“Blood, sweat, and tears,” only begins to describe the training the Misawa Killa Geishas have gone through in the many months leading up to Japan’s first big tournament. We’ve included personal goals, team goals, and one of the most important training aspects, team bonding. When we arrive to the Japan Open Roller Derby Tournament, we will show up prepared mentally, physically, and with a strong sisterhood.
We upped our scrimmages in preparation for the tournament. Every week we did our best to go up against our own teammates at their best. We learned, struggled, and conquered. After months of preparation we are heading to Japan Open Roller Derby Tournament tested, vetted, bruised, healed, and READY!!!'
Pinche Loca #DD5 (Bench)Nique Havoc #4 (Bench)
Yellow Slamarine #4077 (Bench)
Cimo D. Stroyin #11
SINnamon Challenge #38
Peach Bomb #800
Lola Bunny #15
Fenix Fire #602
Honey Basher #5309
Campbell Swoop #23
Ice Bloxx #906
Fay Tall O'Traction #1102
Sweet D'Seat #h8r
Kokeshi Roller Dolls (roster) were the first roller derby league to be founded in Okinawa, dating from 2010. As with other Japanese leagues, they were created by American nationals in the military bases there. They are the hosts of the Japan Open, having previously played in 2014's Big O tournament
With an FTS rating of 518.2, KRD are slightly stronger than the other Japanese leagues attending. We can expect close bouts against their select opponents across the tournament; as hosts, Kokeshi will want to put on a showing for the visitors to Okinawa.
We talked to Kokeshi's Cherry about the league, and the tournament. "After only 6 months of becoming a league, we were on the fast track to applying for a WFTDA Apprenticeship, with support from Rat City Rollergirls. Kokeshi leadership had big goals, and hosting a Far East Roller Derby Tournament was one of the future league goals in the application. We became a full WFTDA Member League in 2013, and [The Japanese Roller Derby Association] JRDA approached us in the fall of 2014. We had a local, large venue and experience in bout production and outreach among local and international leagues. Having a primary Japanese sponsor support the tournament definitely helped get us moving. KRD is hosting and managing the tournament for skaters, officials and fans in cooperation with JRDA who work directly with Okinawa’s public organizations, media, and sponsors in Japanese. JRDA's agenda is to find Japanese nationals to be a part of their organization and play in the 2017 Roller Games. Our [KRD] mission is to host an international tournament, bringing together leagues in the Pacific to play WFTDA sanctioned bouts and build camaraderie and partnerships among leagues and support officials, while promoting roller derby in the community. We definitely have plans for future international tournaments, however, when the next one will be set and who the primary sponsor will be is yet to be determined. We have learned a lot about steps we need for success and what has held us back during the planning.
We are planning for dual announcing, but a Japanese roller derby announcer is a hard billet to fill."
Sprocket2ya #77 (Co-Captain)
Sir G. O. (Bench)
Puncher (Asst. Coach)
Courtney Loveless #O0
Whipping Willow #1013
Warden O'Neill #182
Rogue Wave #2
Sunny Daze #297
Beat Her Up Scotty #394
Psycho Anna Lies #5
Hamo-Cidal Mel #50
Lil N. Gin #9
The Japan Roller Derby Association (roster) is a sponsor of the Japan Open. It's unclear what the JRDA's involvement in Japanese Roller Derby as a whole is - none of the WFTDA-rules leagues in Japan are affiliates, and it was also not involved in the creation of the Japanese National Teams - although the JRDA website does announce that they are intending to attend the FIRS/USARS 2017 RollerGames festival, and they are raising funds for a "Roller Derby School". The JRDA is an affiliate of the Japan Roller Sports Federation and, through that, of FIRS.
As well as providing Japanese language support, interfacing with the Japanese companies and entities involved in the hosting and sponsorship of the tournament and organising the livestreams, JRDA are submitting a team ("Nippon Senbatsu" - roughly, "Japan's Selection" - the natural way to describe a national team in Japanese) to the event. We know essentially nothing about this team at all, as they are apparently debuting at the Open. Nippon Senbatsu will be competing in the B tier of the tournament.
BISHAMONTEN MIHO #555
BoomBoom!! #88 (Manager)