Japan princess giving up over US$1 million & royal status to marry non-royal boyfriend

Her fiance has been involved in a string of controversies that have tipped public opinion against him.

Tanya Ong | September 30, 2021, 01:29 PM

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Princess Mako of Japan is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart Kei Komuro sometime this year.

Who are they?

Princess Mako is the daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko.

She and Komuro met in 2012 while studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo, and got engaged in 2017.

In 2018, Komuro left for New York to study at Fordham University's law school. He has since obtained a license to practice law in New York State, NHK reported, and has returned to Japan this year.

This is the first time Komuro and Princess Mako are reuniting in three years.

Details of the couple's marriage, such as when they will be holding a joint press conference and when they will leave for the U.S. to start their new life, are expected to be announced soon, according to an agency source.

Imperial rules

Under the current rules, female imperial family members lose their royal status upon marrying a commoner. Only males are allowed to marry outside the family.

Females also traditionally receive a lump-sum payment of around 150 million yen (around S$1.8 million) when they leave the household, Kyodo News reported.

Mako's request to marry a commoner means that she will be giving up both the payment as well as her royal status.

If she ends up not getting the sum of money, it will be the first time in Japan's postwar history that a female imperial family member has not received such a payment.

Does the royal family approve?

The Crown Prince was quoted saying that he approves of his daughter's marriage.

He said:

"The Constitution says marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes. If that is what they really want, then I think that is something I need to respect as a parent."

Public opinion on the relationship, however, has been negative so far.

Controversies surrounding Komuro

Support for Komuro first waned following a controversy involving his mother.

Local tabloids had reported on a financial dispute on Komuro's mother owing her former fiance 4 million yen. Komuro later issued a 28-page statement clarifying his mother's financial status, which according to Washington Post, was not well-received by the public.

In addition, Komuro's image has also been the subject of scrutiny and criticism.

Upon his arrival at Narita Airport on Sep. 27 , which was broadcast live, media attention had focused on his hairdo — a ponytail.

Japanese newspaper Nikkan Sports, for instance, published a front-page story with the headline "Kei Komuro comes back with a ponytail":

His ponytail, according to Washington Post, was seen by Japanese society as a symbol of his "unfitness to be involved with the royal family".

Apart from the hairstyle, he was also criticised for his body language, such as placing his hands in his pockets and ignoring the press.

An ongoing debate

Central to this marriage are other pertinent questions regarding Japan's monarchy.

This marriage, for instance, may influence an ongoing debate to allow female imperial family members to retain their royal status even after marrying commoners.

A media and communications professor in Sapporo, Makoto Watanabe, was also quoted by SCMP highlighting questions people might have over the princess' decision to marry Komuro, including if she really loves him and wants to move to the U.S. with him, or is she just sick of the restrictions she's facing in Tokyo as an imperial family member?

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Top photo via AFP/Getty Images.