The last time the sister of a future Japanese emperor was married, hundreds of well-wishers lined the streets as the bride, Princess Sayako, walked out of the palace to attend the ceremony and reception at one of Tokyo’s most prestigious hotels, according to reports.
At contrast, when Princess Mako, 30, a niece of the current emperor and the elder sister of the probable future ruler, tied the knot on Tuesday, the ceremony was conducted entirely in a register office in Tokyo under the supervision of royal authorities.
The couple’s passionate commitment was shown poignantly even in the absence of an elaborate broadcast ceremony or a balcony kiss. The bridegroom, Kei Komuro, looked into the camera during a formal news conference on Tuesday afternoon, declaring: “I absolutely adore Mako.” “I’d want to spend the rest of my one life with the person I care about.”
The road that led up to that emotional moment had been torturously difficult. Not long after the princess and Mr. Komuro announced their engagement four years ago, the general public started to express doubts about her decision. Following the revelation that his mother had received 4 million yen (about $36,000) from an ex-boyfriend whom she had not returned, critics speculated that Mr. Komuro was attempting to marry into the imperial family for the sake of money or celebrity. Mr. Komuro denied the allegations.
Princess Mako’s father delayed consent of the marriage, claiming a skewed public opinion as the reason for his decision. Mr. Komuro, 30, was pursued by the paparazzi when he moved to New York to attend Fordham Law School. They followed him about town, noticing his scruffy hair and frequenting food trucks. The princess suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of savage abuse on social media platforms.
Mr. Komuro returned to Japan at the end of last month to undergo quarantine in preparation for his marriage, and the scrutiny became even more frantic, verging on ludicrous. The fact that he came from New York with a ponytail took the media and the general public by complete and utter surprise. According to one tabloid weekly, a royal court official had scoffed at Mr. Komuro’s decision to wear a pinstripe suit to meet his prospective in-laws, rather than a solid black or blue suit, when he first met them. According to some studies, as many as 80 percent of those who took part expressed opposition to the union.
Nonetheless, after three years of waiting for Mr. Komuro to complete law school and begin working at a New York law firm, the patient pair, who met while attending the International Christian University in Tokyo and were college sweethearts, registered their marriage on Tuesday morning.
In front of a packed room of reporters and a phalanx of cameras at the press conference, which was staged at a hotel less than a mile from the Imperial Palace, the pair sat side by side at a long table facing the audience. A light blue sheath dress and jacket, accented with a single strand of pearls, were worn by the bride, while Mr. Komuro sported a dark navy-blue and white striped suit.
According to her prepared words, the princess said, “I recognise that there are many viewpoints on our marriage.” I feel terrible for the folks who were subjected to our misfortune. Those who have shown a silent worry for us, as well as those who have remained to support us despite false information, have been much appreciated.”
In order to avoid having to respond to unflattering inquiries or confront lies, the couple requested that reporters submit five questions in advance, which they would then respond to in writing. Because they didn’t want to be accused of squandering government money, they paid to rent the space where the press briefing would take place.
A tone of existential fear about the royal family, which serves as a symbol of traditional Japanese culture, is at the heart of many of the venomous comments expressed regarding Princess Mako’s choice of spouse. Despite the fact that the world’s oldest monarchy is facing an impending succession crisis, the princess’s marriage draws attention to an issue that the government has so far refused to address.
Women are not permitted to rule on the throne of Japan, according to the Imperial Household Law, which oversees the succession of the country’s monarchs. As a result of her marriage to a commoner, the law dictates that Princess Mako must renounce her royal title, and she will be forced to live as a commoner herself after her divorce. Any children she may have will not be heirs to the throne, regardless of their age.
According to polls, an overwhelming majority of Japanese citizens believe that the country’s constitution should be changed to allow women to sit on the throne. This includes Princess Aiko, who is 19 years old and is the current emperor, Naruhito. According to a recent study conducted by Kyodo News, over 80 percent of respondents also want children born to royal ladies such as Princess Mako to be included in the line of succession.
For the time being, the conservative element of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been steadfast in its opposition to any reforms that would enable women to rule or children of royal women to enter the line of succession.
Because of the chance that the political elite would be forced to submit to popular opinion or demographic realities, the public feels entitled to express its view on Princess Mako’s choice of spouse, should she be restored into the royal family in the event that she does so.