Princess Mako of Japan marries commoner, loses royal status

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TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Princess Mako quietly married a commoner without traditional wedding celebrations on Tuesday and said their marriage – delayed by three years and contested by some – “was a necessary choice to live on while cherishing our hearts.”

Marriage to Kei Komuro cost Mako his royal status. She received her husband’s last name – the first time she has ever had a last name. Most Japanese women have to give up their own last name upon marriage due to a law requiring only one last name per married couple.

The couple’s marriage document was submitted by a palace official on Tuesday morning and made official, the Imperial Household Agency said. There was no wedding banquet or other wedding rituals for the couple. The agency acknowledged that many people had not welcomed their wedding.

“To me, Kei-san is an invaluable person. For us, our marriage was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts, ”Mako said at a televised press conference, using an honorary title when speaking of her husband.

Komuro replied, “I love Mako. I only live once and want to spend it with someone I love. He said he hoped to be with Mako to share his feelings and encourage each other through happy and difficult times.

“I hope to have a warm family with Mako-san, and I will continue to do everything to support her,” he said.

Former Princess Mako of Japan, right, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her husband Kei Komuro look at each other during a press conference to announce their wedding at a hotel in Tokyo, at Japan, Tuesday October 26. 2021. Former Princess Mako married the commoner and lost her royal status on Tuesday in a union that divided public opinion after a three-year delay caused by a financial dispute involving her new mother-in-law.(Nicolas Datiche / Pool photo via AP)

Mako had previously refused a 140 million yen ($ 1.23 million) payment she was entitled to for leaving the Imperial Family, palace officials said. She is the first member of the Imperial Family since WWII not to receive payment and chose to do so due to criticism of the marriage.

Mako, who turned 30 three days before the wedding, is a niece of Emperor Naruhito. She and Komuro, who were classmates at Tokyo International Christian University, announced in September 2017 that they intended to marry the following year, but a financial dispute involving her mother surfaced two months ago. later and the marriage was suspended.

On Tuesday morning, Mako left the palace wearing a pale blue dress and holding a bouquet. She bowed in front of the residence to her parents, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her sister Kako, and then the sisters hugged.

The couple did not respond to questions at the press conference as Mako had expressed unease at the prospect of responding in person. Instead, they provided written responses to questions submitted by the media beforehand, including those regarding her mother’s financial problems.

Mako is recovering from what palace medics described earlier this month as a form of traumatic stress disorder that she developed after seeing negative media coverage of their marriage, particularly attacks on Komuro.

“We were horrified, scared and saddened… because false information was taken as fact and unfounded stories spread,” Mako said in a written response to one of the questions.

The dispute is over whether the money her mother received from her former fiance was a loan or a gift. Mako’s father asked Komuro for clarification and he wrote a statement to defend himself, but it is still unclear whether the dispute has been fully resolved.

Komuro, 30, moved to New York in 2018 to study law and only returned to Japan last month. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail at the time and the look drew attention as a bold statement for someone marrying a traditionally bound princess in the Imperial Family and only added to the criticism.

The couple will move to New York together to start a new life.

Many in Tokyo wished them luck.

“Congratulations,” said office worker Yasuhiro Suzuki. “I hope people in America will welcome them.”

Retiree Kenko Suzuki has said he expects life in New York to be difficult as they will have to live without anyone looking after them. “So I support them,” he said.

“There will be different kinds of hardship at the start of our new life, but we will walk together as we have done in the past,” Mako said, thanking everyone who supported them.

Mako, apparently referring to mental health issues, noted that “a lot of people struggle and hurt feelings when trying to protect their hearts.” She said, “I sincerely hope that our society will be a place where more people can live and protect their hearts with the warm help and support of others.”

Mako is not the only royal woman whose sanity has been strained by attacks inside and outside the palace.

Her grandmother, Empress Emerita Michiko, wife of former Emperor Akihito and the first commoner married to a monarch in modern history, collapsed and temporarily lost her voice in 1993 following a persistent negative coverage.

Empress Masako, a former Harvard-trained diplomat, has suffered from stress-induced mental disorders for nearly 20 years, in part because of criticism of not having a male heir.

Some critics say Mako’s marriage highlights the hardships faced by women in the Japanese imperial household.

The loss of the royal status of Mako comes from the law of the imperial house, which only allows male succession.

Only royal men have familiar names, while female members of the Imperial family have only titles and must leave if they marry commoners.

The male-only succession practice leaves only Akishino and his son, Prince Hisahito, in line to succeed Emperor Naruhito. A panel of government-appointed experts is discussing a more stable succession system, but conservatives still reject female succession and allow women to lead the imperial family.

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Associated Press reporter Chisato Tanaka contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


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