At 30 years-old, Japan’s Princess Mako has married her fiancé Kei Komuro whom she met nine years ago on the campus of Tokyo’s International Christian University.
On Tuesday, the couple registered their union at a local government office, after a four-year engagement — a period marred by a money scandal involving the groom’s mother and ongoing salacious impingements into their private lives.
Princess Mako left her Tokyo residence in the morning to register her marriage, witnessed by her parents Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko.
Members of the public, along with the media gathered in front of the imperial residence in the Akasaka Estate to catch a glimpse of the newly weds after their official registration.
Mako addressed the media, saying she was sorry for any trouble brought to people by her marriage.
“I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused and I am grateful for those… who have continued to support me,” she said. “For me, Kei is irreplaceable – marriage was a necessary choice for us.”
Komuro added that he loved Mako and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.
“I love Mako. We only get one life, and I want us to spend it with the one we love,” Komuro said. “I feel very sad that Mako has been in a bad condition, mentally and physically, because of the false accusations.”
Imperial Household Agency reported earlier this year that the former Princess had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder due to the excessive media coverage and harsh criticism from the media and on social media she faced over the last few years.
And sadly, not everyone’s happy about this week’s union.
On the same day, a 100-strong rally marched through central Tokyo protesting against the marriage, with demonstrators carrying signs – some written in English – reading: ‘Where will the security funds for their New York life come from?’ and ‘Japan rule of law nation’.
Why is this marriage ‘controversial’?
Japan has the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. Under the country’s law, female imperial family members must forfeit their status upon marriage to a “commoner” however male imperial members do not.
So, Mako has now lost her royal status.
Her marriage is being heralded as a new era in modern-day Japanese Royal, as issues of gender equality and human rights rise to the surface of continuing debates.
Mako has declined this payment, citing fears that her marriage may benefit from taxpayer money.
The newly-weds also declined the usual rites of a traditional royal wedding, dropping the rituals and ceremonies historically seen in royal weddings, such as a reception.
These decisions mark the former Princess as the first female member of the royal family to decline both the wedding and the payment.
But Princess Mako has kept one piece of tradition alive — she erased her surname and took on her husband’s, becoming Mako Komuro.
What do we know about Mako?
The former princess is the eldest of two daughters of the Crown Prince Fumihito. She is also the niece of Emperor Naruhito, the 126th monarch according to Japan’s traditional order of succession.
Named “Japan’s Harry and Meghan”, the couple have faced criticism from conservatives who believe the groom is “not a worthy partner for a niece of the emperor”, according to BBC’s Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes.
What do we know about Kei?
Kei Komuro, also 30, left Japan in 2018 to study law in New York at the prestigious Fordham University Law School.
The former paralegal who worked at a Tokyo law firm began working at a law firm in New York after he graduated from Fordham with a Juris Doctor degree in May.
In September, he returned to Japan.
He met his future wife in 2012 at an event for students interested in studying abroad at Tokyo’s International Christian University.
During his university days, he was picked as the “2010: Prince of the Sea” to lead a tourism campaign for Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, a the coastal town an hour’s south of Tokyo.
What are their future plans?
The couple are expected to relocate to New York.
What does the future of Japan’s Monarchy look like?
Historically, female members of the Royal Family in Japan have been forced to adhere to strict, patriarchal traditions: they must be supportive of their husbands, produce a male heir and uphold Japanese traditions of demonstrating grace, stoicism and docility.
Backlash faces those who do not perform these duties to perfection.
With Mako’s departure, Japan’s royal family now has 17 members. In 1945, there were 67. Japan remains one of the few monarchies where women are banned from inheriting the throne, although it has had eight female rulers in its history.
In July, government panel of experts working to compile a report on ways to ensure stable imperial succession decided not to look at changing rule that only men can be emperor.
“If the panel goes into it, it will inevitably have to discuss the issues of allowing women and males of the female line to become the emperor,” a government official stated.
“Such issues will be too heavy to tackle at this stage.”