Defying all odds and enduring harsh criticism for years, Princess Mako and Kei Komuro can finally enjoy married life together despite giving up all royal privileges.
Attracting public and media attention since their engagement in 2017, Princess Mako of Japan and fiancée Kei Komuro were married on Tuesday, 26 October 2021 in a quiet ceremony devoid of pomp and extravagance that is expected of royal weddings. In Princess Mako’s case, choosing to have a civil ceremony voluntarily is symbolic of her relinquishing both her title and royal privileges in order to wed her college sweetheart, who has no royal connections himself.
Unfortunately for the couple, their union did not go over well with the country’s media and with people who uphold the imperial family’s lineage as law. When news of their relationship went public, media scrutiny into Komuro’s life took an insidious turn with the press digging into personal family matters.
After a financial scandal involving Komuro’s mother was uncovered, public media attention over the couple was so relentless it ended up affecting Princess Mako’s mental health quite badly. With Japan’s male-only succession laws, none of Crown Prince Fumihito’s daughters (including Princess Mako) are in line for the Chrysanthemum throne; this includes Emperor Naruhito’s (Crown Prince Fumihito’s brother) own daughter, Princess Aiko.
Despite this knowledge, the barrage of media and public criticism over Princess Mako’s choice of partner was largely unforgiving. This led to the wedding being put on hold in 2018 as investigations into the financial scandal took place.
One very important wedding ritual that was observed was the Princess meeting with Emperor Naruhito (her uncle) and Empress Masako to pay her respects before her nuptials. Japanese tradition also dictates that women in the royal family who relinquish their royal status in the event of marrying a commoner, must receive a payment of US$1M in taxpayers’ money of which Princess Mako graciously declined.
The meeting with the Emperor over the weekend was followed by a simple press conference yesterday where the couple confirmed their marriage to the general public and press.
Not everyone was against it and many young Japanese celebrated Princess Mako’s engagement in 2017, and revealed plans to marry in November 2018. But due to stringent media scrutiny and the uncovering of personal financial affairs of Komuro’s mother in February 2018, the imperial household agency who oversees the royal family’s affairs advised for the wedding to be put off for at least two years while investigations were under way.
Reports revealed that Komuro’s mother was embroiled in a financial dispute linked to ¥4m (US$35,188) she had received from a former fiancé, some of which was used to pay for her son’s education. This private intrusion generated exclusively negative headlines all over the country, leaving Komuro struggling to defend his family’s reputation and affecting his bride-to-be’s mental health.
Akinori Takamori, a lecturer at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, said: “The royal family should exist without troubles connected to money, the economy, or politics.
“Morally, the Japanese people want them to be impeccable. There isn’t a place for Komuro in Japan, and so Mako, despite affection for her family, can’t stay. It’s not that they’ve fallen out with her family.”
Kazuko Ito, secretary general of the Japan-based group Human Rights Now, wrote in an online commentary for President magazine that marrying the person of your choosing “is an important human right”.
She said: “Marriage and romance are critically important choices that are directly linked to happiness. Given that society is attempting to deny [Mako and Komuro] that happiness, it is almost like the hands of the clock have been reset to the feudal era.”
Whatever the public expected, it seemed to reflect in the royal family’s own reaction to the relationship which must have been quite difficult for the couple.
It will probably come as a massive relief to Princess Mako and Komuro (who is a lawyer) when they relocate to New York where he will be taking on a role with a prestigious law firm. When her engagement was announced in 2017, the Princess revealed a simple wish: “To make a warm and comfortable family full of smiles.”
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