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.