Japanese princess set to marry commoner boyfriend despite dispute

Published October 1, 2021
In this Sept 3, 2017 file photo, Japan's Princess Mako and her fiance Kei Komuro look at each other during a press conference at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo. — AP/File
In this Sept 3, 2017 file photo, Japan's Princess Mako and her fiance Kei Komuro look at each other during a press conference at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo. — AP/File

Japanese Princess Mako will marry her fiance, a former college classmate, on October 26, authorities said on Friday, after years of intense scrutiny and criticism that cast her engagement in an unflattering light.

The 29-year-old niece of Emperor Naruhito became engaged to Kei Komuro, 29, in 2017, and the two initially captivated the public with their smiles at each other in a news conference to announce the event.

Their marriage is not fully supported by the public because of a financial dispute involving her future mother-in-law.

The controversy involving Mako fiance Kei Komuro's mother is an embarrassment for the imperial family and led to public rebuke that delayed their marriage for more than three years.

Komuro, 29, returned to Japan last week from New York, where he was studying to become a lawyer. His hair, tied in a ponytail, was considered a bold statement for someone marrying a princess in the tradition-bound family and only added to the criticism.

This picture taken on Sept 27, 2021 shows Kei Komuro, the boyfriend of Japan's Princess Mako, arriving at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture. — AFP
This picture taken on Sept 27, 2021 shows Kei Komuro, the boyfriend of Japan's Princess Mako, arriving at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture. — AFP

The couple will register their marriage on Oct. 26 and will have a news conference together, the Imperial Household Agency said. They are expected to start a new life together in New York later this year.

"There will be no wedding banquet and other rituals for the couple because their marriage is not celebrated by many people," the agency said.

Mako has also declined the 150 million yen ($1.35 million) she is entitled to leaving the imperial family, palace officials said.

Mako would be the first female imperial family member since World War II to not receive the payment when marrying a commoner.

She was recently diagnosed with a mental condition that palace doctors described as a form of traumatic stress disorder, according to the agency.

Japan's imperial succession rules mean that Mako will lose her title after the marriage.

Crown Prince Akishino last year said he supported his daughter's marriage, but that she needed to win the public's “understanding”.

Komuro returned to Japan earlier this week to a media frenzy and currently, he is observing Japan's mandatory 14-day quarantine for overseas arrivals.

'No need to attack her'

The tumult around her marriage, and the couple's decision to move to the United States, have made for inevitable comparisons with another royal couple: Britain Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

The marriage news topped headlines, with several newspapers printing special editions to mark the announcement, but reaction online was divided, with some unhappy but others welcoming the wedding.

“Congratulations. Imperial family members should have a right to make a decision on their lives,” wrote one Twitter user.

The term “complex PTSD” was trending on Japanese Twitter, with some expressing sympathy for the princess.

“It's not surprising if she's developed complex PTSD. There is no need to attack her further, is there?” wrote one person on Twitter.

But others cast doubt on the announcement, with another Twitter user saying “this timing means 'don't criticise.'” Mako is sister to Prince Hisahito, 15, currently the only eligible male heir to the throne other than his father.

Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne can pass only to male members of the family, and the children of female royals who marry outside the aristocracy are not included.

The strict rules have raised fears for the future of the royal family, with just two male heirs and no prospect of new ones for years to come.

But attempts to debate succession reform have been met with staunch opposition from traditionalists.

Mako is not the first member of the royal family to suffer the consequences of hostile media attention. Empress Masako has long battled a stress-induced illness that emerged after she struggled with the pressure to bear a son and royal restrictions on travel.

Opinion

Editorial

27 May, 2022

After the march

FORMER prime minister Imran Khan either ‘ran away’ from Islamabad or made a temporary, strategic retreat. It...
A tough decision
Updated 27 May, 2022

A tough decision

Decision to raise fuel prices will remove a major hitch of concluding a staff-level agreement with IMF.
27 May, 2022

Xinjiang files

QUESTIONS about the status of the Muslim Uighur people in China’s Xinjiang autonomous region often arise, with...
Dark days
Updated 26 May, 2022

Dark days

The PTI, on its part, does not seem to have been prepared to face such a large deployment of state machinery.
26 May, 2022

No room for dissent

WHILE political turmoil roils the land, a number of incidents over the past few days have demonstrated that though...
26 May, 2022

Harassing passengers

REPORTS of the confiscation of personal items from passengers’ private luggage by customs officials at Karachi’s...