Japan’s Princess Mako abandons tradition and overcomes controversy to marry university sweetheart Japan’s Princess Mako abandons tradition and overcomes controversy to marry university sweetheart
Backstories

Japan’s Princess Mako abandons tradition and overcomes controversy to marry university sweetheart

    NHK World
    Correspondent
    Emperor Naruhito’s niece Princess Mako is set to leave the Imperial Family – and Japan – as she marries the ponytailed lawyer who captured her heart.

    There will be no lavish ceremony for Princess Mako and Komuro Kei, whose relationship has weathered years of controversy over his suitability. The date has been set for October 26, which is when the required documents will be handed over at a government office.

    Komuro is 30 years old, and Princess Mako will turn 30 this month. They have been separated for three years after postponing their wedding plans over a financial squabble involving the groom’s mother.

    Komuro has been studying law in the United States and secured a job in New York. He and his bride, who is required to exit the Imperial Family upon marriage to a commoner, plan to forge a new life together in the Big Apple.

    Komuro is currently in mandatory two-week home quarantine in Yokohama, near Tokyo, after returning from New York. A media storm accompanied his arrival at Narita Airport, with many reports focused on his new hairstyle.

    Komuro arrived at Narita Airport from the United States in September.

    Princess Mako met Komuro while they were both studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo. They fell in love, and in 2017, the smiling couple sat side by side at a media conference to announce their engagement.

    Princess Mako and Komuro Kei announced their engagement plans at a 2017 media conference.

    “Mr. Komuro is a person who warmly encourages me,” the princess said at the time. “I think what first attracted me was his bright smile, like the sun.”

    But in 2018, the Imperial Household Agency suddenly announced the schedule related to their engagement had been postponed.

    Mother’s “financial troubles”

    Tabloid magazines started reporting stories about the Komuro family’s financial issues. His mother had apparently been engaged to a man who claimed he had provided her with about $36,000 in support. He was now asking for repayment.

    Amid a barrage of criticism and with the marriage up in the air, Komuro left Japan to study law in the United States. Many doubted whether he and the princess would ever be together.

    But Princess Mako seemed determined, and it is reported that she and her boyfriend were in contact almost every day during their time apart. As the holder of a master’s degree in art museum and gallery studies, she has been working as a special researcher at the University of Tokyo’s museum.

    “For us, each other is irreplaceable and we can support each other in times of happiness and misery,” the princess wrote in a statement issued last November. “Marriage is a choice we need to live, caring for our heart.”

    Komuro issued his own statement in April in an effort to explain his family’s side of the story. He said his mother’s ex-fiancé suddenly sent them a letter demanding repayment. Komuro wrote that he was willing to settle the issue, noting that he may have relied too much on the man's goodwill.

    “All family members, including her father Crown Prince Akishino and her mother Princess Kiko were deeply troubled,” says Professor Emeritus Akagi Osamu of Osaka University of Foreign Studies, a longtime friend of the family. “Princess Mako worked hard and made up her mind to marry and become a commoner, after swaying back and forth between her responsibilities as a member of the Imperial Family and her own wishes.”

    A wedding without ceremony

    The Imperial Household Agency has announced there will be none of the usual ceremonies or rituals surrounding the nuptials.

    Princess Mako is declining a $1.3 million dowry to which she is entitled.

    The princess has also declined a payment of more than $1.3 million dollars to which female Imperial family members are entitled to receive upon a marriage that requires them to relinquish their title. The decision comes in the wake of public criticism of the marriage.

    Princess Mako’s health has also suffered. At an October 1 media conference, Imperial Household Agency officials revealed she had been diagnosed with “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” and was suffering severe mental strain from public and media pressure.

    “She should be able to overcome the disorder if her marriage brings to an end the abusive comments about her, Komuro and their families,” Dr. Akiyama Tsuyoshi of the NTT Medical Center Tokyo told reporters.

    A new life in New York

    The newlyweds are scheduled to hold a joint news conference the same day their marriage documents are lodged. October 26 is regarded as a day of good fortune on the Buddhist calendar.

    The bride will be a princess no longer. As such, she will need to obtain her first passport, and a visa, before embarking on a new life journey.