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Japan's Princess Mako finally marries university sweetheart Kei Komuro

·4-min read
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino, and her husband Kei Komuro gave a press conference - Nicolas Datiche - Pool/Getty Images
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino, and her husband Kei Komuro gave a press conference - Nicolas Datiche - Pool/Getty Images

Japan's Princess Mako married her university sweetheart Kei Komuro on Tuesday, the Imperial household said, but proceedings were kept low-key following years of controversy.

Since announcing their engagement in 2017, the couple have faced tabloid scandals over reports that Mr Komuro's family had run into financial difficulties.

The couple were finally wed on Tuesday morning when an official from the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), which runs the family's lives, submitted paperwork to a local office, foregoing the numerous rituals and ceremonies usual to royal weddings, including a reception.

Like other women in Japan's imperial family, Princess Mako, Emperor Naruhito's niece, cannot ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, and the princess will also lose her title because she is marrying a commoner.

For the first time in Japan's post-war history, the marriage was registered without traditional rites, and Princess Mako, 30, turned down a large payment usually offered to royal women on their departure.

TV footage showed Princess Mako leaving the Akasaka Imperial Residence and saying farewell to her family, bowing to her parents and the press, and hugging her sister.

Princess Mako leaves her home and heads for the ceremony - REUTERS
Princess Mako leaves her home and heads for the ceremony - REUTERS
Princess Mako is waved away by her parents Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko, and her sister Princess Kako - AP
Princess Mako is waved away by her parents Crown Prince Akishino, Crown Princess Kiko, and her sister Princess Kako - AP
Kei Komuro said nothing to the camera crews outside his house as he left for the ceremony - GETTY IMAGES
Kei Komuro said nothing to the camera crews outside his house as he left for the ceremony - GETTY IMAGES

Mr Komuro, dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie, bowed briefly to camera crews gathered outside his home as he left in the morning but said nothing.

When the princess and Mr Komuro, 30, were engaged four years ago, they captured Japanese hearts as Mr Komuro called his fiancée "the moon" quietly watching over him, and she compared his smile to the sun.

But while the press initially fawned over Komuro, who works for a US law firm, reports soon emerged that his mother had failed to repay a four-million-yen (£25,500) loan from a former fiancé.

Japan's royals are held to exacting standards, and the Imperial Household Agency recently said Princess Mako had developed complex post-traumatic stress disorder because of the media attention.

The couple postponed their marriage and Mr Komuro moved to New York for law school in 2018, a move seen as a bid to defuse negative attention.

Princess Mako hugs her sister, Princess Kako, before saying goodbye to her parents - REUTERS
Princess Mako hugs her sister, Princess Kako, before saying goodbye to her parents - REUTERS

The recent graduate only returned to Japan last month, sporting a headline-grabbing ponytail.

The low-key proceedings on Tuesday stood in contrast to those of another royal to marry out of the family: Ayako, formerly Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of former Emperor Akihito's late cousin.

At her wedding in 2018, she wore a crimson kimono robe for female aristocrats, with her hair swept back in a ponytail in a traditional style.

But for Princess Mako and Mr Komuro, a "wedding ceremony, reception banquet and other rituals won't be held, and a lump-sum payment won't be provided", the Imperial Household Agency said this month, referring to a conventional gift reportedly worth up to 153 million yen (£976,000).

Protesters against the marriage marched through Tokyo on Tuesday - REUTERS
Protesters against the marriage marched through Tokyo on Tuesday - REUTERS

The couple are said to be planning a move to the US after the marriage, drawing inevitable comparisons with another royal couple who have faced a media onslaught: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The two will likely live in New York, though Mako will remain on her own in Tokyo for some time after the wedding to prepare for the move, including applying for the first passport of her life.

It is not clear whether Princess Mako will work once there, but she is well qualified. The princess studied art and cultural heritage at Tokyo's International Christian University, where she met Mr Komuro, and spent a year at Edinburgh University.

The couple announed their engagement in 2017 - GETTY IMAGES
The couple announed their engagement in 2017 - GETTY IMAGES
Japan's former Princess Mako, right, the elder daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her husband Kei Komuro, attend a press conference to announce their marriage, at a hotel in Tokyo
Japan's former Princess Mako, right, the elder daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her husband Kei Komuro, attend a press conference to announce their marriage, at a hotel in Tokyo

She also holds a master's degree in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester.

There has been some debate over changing the rules of succession in Japan, and a government panel in July compiled notes on the issue including a proposal that royal women stay in the family, even after marriage.

However, any change to the system is likely to be a long time coming, with hardliners and traditionalists vehemently opposed to any steps towards letting women rule.

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