Japan's Princess Mako is going ahead with wedding to commoner Kei Komuro. Not everyone approves
Since Japan's Princess Mako and Kei Komuro announced their engagement in 2017, their union has been mired in scandal, public disapproval and tabloid frenzy. Here's why.But since Japan's Princess Mako and Kei Komuro announced their engagement in 2017, their union has been mired in scandal, public disapproval and tabloid frenzy.
Japan's Princess Mako has married her non-royal college sweetheart Kei Komuro in a subdued ceremony, formally marking her departure from the royal family. © Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images Former princess Mako arrives at a Tokyo hotel for a press event with Komuro after registering their marriage on Tuesday.
The couple submitted their registration at the local ward office around 10 a.m. local time Tuesday, according to the Imperial Household Agency, forgoing the usual pomp and circumstance of most royal weddings.
The newlyweds are expected to move to New York City, where Komuro works at a law firm.
Japan's Princess Mako to marry after years of controversy
Japan's Princess Mako finally marries her university sweetheart Kei Komuro on Tuesday, but it won't be a lavish affair, with the couple forgoing traditional rites after years of controversy. Emperor Naruhito's niece Mako, who turned 30 over the weekend, will lose her royal title when she and Komuro register their marriage. This is par for the course for female members of the lineage, who cannot ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne and must leave the imperial family when they marry a commoner.
Mako, who turned 30 over the weekend, announced her engagement with Komuro four years ago. But their union has been plagued by years of controversy, public disapproval and tabloid frenzy over a money scandal involving Komuro's mother.
In an effort to appease a disapproving public, Mako turned down a one-off million-dollar payout from the government, which she was entitled to as a departing royal.
As the emperor's niece, Mako wasn't in line to the throne -- Japan's male-only succession law prevents that from happening. And under Japanese law, female members of the royal household must give up their titles and leave the palace if they marry a commoner. © KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images Kei Komuro arrives at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture on September 27 from the United States.
Mako, who will no longer be known as princess, isn't the first woman to leave the Japanese royal family. The last royal to do so was her aunt, Sayako, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito, when she married town planner Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005.
Japan's Princess Mako marries commoner, loses royal status
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Princess Mako married a commoner and lost her royal status Tuesday in a union that has split public opinion and was delayed more than three years by a financial dispute involving her new mother-in-law. The marriage document for Mako and Kei Komuro was submitted by a palace official Tuesday morning and is now official, the Imperial Household Agency said. They will make statements at a press conference in the afternoon but will not take questions because Mako showed fear and unease at the questions that would be posed, the agency said.
The couple had planned to marry in 2018, but their wedding was pushed back. The Imperial household said the delay was due to a "lack of preparation," but others suspect it was due to reports Komuro's mother failed to pay back $36,000 she borrowed from her former fiancé.
Komuro disputed the account, even releasing a 28-page statement earlier this year, stating his mother believed the money was a gift and that he would pay to settle the dispute. But tabloid gossip had already spiraled to dissect every aspect of his family and his life.
Some Japanese don't consider the commoner son of a single parent to be worthy of a princess; some media reports even painted him as an untrustworthy gold-digger.
The years of speculation and slurs have taken their toll on Mako. Earlier this month, the palace disclosed that she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The princess "feels pessimistic and finds it difficult to feel happy due to the persistent fear of her life being destroyed," Princess Mako's psychiatrist, Tsuyoshi Akiyama, director of NTT Medical Center Tokyo, told media at the Imperial Household Agency.
Princess Mako's Wedding to Commoner Kei Komuro Puts a Spotlight on the Japanese Monarchy's Succession Problem
The princess becomes the latest to lose her royal status, shrinking the potential pool of heirsLocal media reports said Japan’s Imperial Household Agency, which handles the royal family’s affairs, submitted legal paperwork to register the couple’s union on their behalf on Tuesday morning.
Komuro left Japan for law school in New York in 2018, and only returned in September for the wedding. He arrived in Japan sporting long hair tied in a ponytail, which set off a media frenzy.
Tabloids ran photos of 30-year-old Komuro's ponytail from every angle, with some comparing it to a samurai's top knot. On social media, some tweeted support for his new look, while others said it was unsuitable for the groom of a royal bride. Komuro cut off his ponytail ahead of Tuesday's wedding.
A quiet life after royal exit
Princess Mako and Komuro's retreat from the royal spotlight is being compared to another famous couple -- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Markle's engagement to Britain's Prince Harry sparked controversy when it was first announced in November 2017. Some believed a biracial, divorced American actress had no place within the British royal family.
Over time, the British tabloids' coverage of the couple became so toxic that Harry issued a statement in November 2016, condemning the "wave of harassment" Meghan had to endure. Eventually, the couple jumped ship, leaving the British royal family in January 2020.
But while Princess Mako's "dramatic" exit from the royal family is somewhat comparable to "Megxit" -- the term for the British couple's departure -- the similarities end there, said Ken Ruoff, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University.
"British royal family members grow up among great wealth. And they also spend a lot of time directly raising money for very various charitable causes, so know how it works. So when Harry and Meghan went to the United States, by telling various stories about the royal family, they managed to make millions and millions of dollars, all the while draping themselves in feel-good, left-wing causes," Ruoff said.
"I would predict there's almost no way that Mako and her future husband are going to behave like that after they get married. In fact, I think what's going to happen is they're just going to disappear."
Mako Komuro Isn't the First Female Scion of Japan's Royal Family to Have Suffered From Mental Stress .
The former princess Mako Komuro is not the only Japanese royal to have experienced issues related to mental wellbeingNobody was surprised by the low-key approach. Earlier this month, officials of the Imperial Household Agency said that Mako was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to “excessive media coverage” of her relationship with Komuro since its beginnings in 2017. Press interest became frenzied after a financial scandal involving Komuro’s mother and the mother’s ex-fiancé came to light in early 2018.