Japanese Princess Mako Marries Commoner, Loses Royal Position

VOA Learning English • voa
Oct. 26, 2021 6 minSource

Japan's Princess Mako on Tuesday quietly married a commoner without traditional wedding celebrations. She said her marriage to her former university classmate, Kei Komuro, “was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts.”

Komuro added, “I love Mako. I live only once and I want to spend it with someone I love.”

The marriage to Komuro cost Mako her royal position and title. She also received her husband’s family name -- the first time she has had a family name. Most Japanese women must drop their own family name after marriage because of a law requiring only one family name for a married couple.

The couple’s marriage document made the union official on Tuesday morning, the Imperial Household Agency said. There were no royal marriage ceremonies for the couple.

The agency admitted that many Japanese have not welcomed their marriage.

Mako earlier refused to accept a 140 million yen -- about $1.23 million -- payment offered to her for leaving the imperial family.  She is the first imperial family member since World War II to not receive the payment. She chose to not accept the payment because of criticism of the marriage.

Mako turned 30 years old three days before the marriage. She is a niece of Emperor Naruhito. She and Komuro attended school together at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

The couple announced in September 2017 that they planned to marry the following year. But two months after their announcement, the media began reporting about a financial dispute between Komuro’s mother and her former fiancé. The main claimed Komuro and his mother had not repaid a debt of about $35,000.

The couple’s wedding was suspended.

On Tuesday morning, Mako left the palace wearing a light blue dress and holding flowers. She bowed outside the palace to her parents, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and hugged her sister Kako.

The couple did not answer questions at the news conference Tuesday. Mako had expressed unease about giving answers in person. Instead, they provided written answers to questions sent by the media ahead of time, including those about Komuro’s mother’s financial issues.

Mako is recovering from what palace doctors described earlier this month as severe stress from continued media criticism.

“We have been...saddened ... as false information has been taken as fact and that unfounded stories have spread,” Mako said in a written answer to one of the questions.

Komuro, who is 30 years old, left for New York in 2018 to study law. He returned to Japan last month. His hair was tied back at the time. The look drew attention as a strong statement for someone marrying a princess in the traditional imperial family. It added to the media’s criticism of him.

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

Many in Tokyo wished them good luck.

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

Speaking about her mental health issues, Mako noted that “many people have difficulty and hurt feelings while trying to protect their hearts.” She added that she hoped “our society will be a place where more people can live and protect their hearts with the help of warm help and support from others.”

Mako is not the only female royal whose mental health was affected by attacks from inside and outside the palace. Her grandmother, Empress Emerita Michiko, was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese imperial family. She collapsed and temporarily lost her voice in 1993 following continued negative media attention.

Empress Masako is a Harvard-educated former diplomat. She has had a mental condition for nearly 20 years in part because of criticism over not producing a boy who would become Emperor.

Some critics say Mako’s marriage brings attention to the difficulties faced by women in the Japanese imperial family.

Mako’s loss of her royal position comes from the Imperial House Law, which permits only male succession. Female imperial family members must leave if they marry commoners.

The male-only succession tradition leaves only Akishino and his son, Prince Hisahito, in line to take the place of Emperor Naruhito.

A group of government-appointed experts is discussing ways to create a different succession system. But conservatives still reject female succession and permitting women to be at the head of the imperial family.

I’m John Russell.

And I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English, with additional materials from Reuters news agency. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

cherish - v. ​to feel or show great love for (someone or something)

royal - adj. of or relating to a king or queen

imperial - adj . of or relating to an empire or an emperor

bow - v. to bend forward at the neck or waist as a formal way of greeting someone or showing respect

hug - v. to put your arms around someone especially as a way of showing love or friendship

palace - n. ​the official home of a king, queen, president, etc.

stress - n. ​ a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.

succession - n. the act of getting a title or right after the person who had that title or right before you has died or is no longer able or allowed to have it

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