A Japanese princess who renounced her royal status to marry a non-royal college left for New York on Sunday, as the couple pursued happiness as newlyweds and left behind a nation that criticized their romance.
The departure of Mako Komuro, former Princess Mako, and Kei Komuro, both 30, was broadcast live by major Japanese broadcasters, as they appeared on a plane amid a wave of camera flashes at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
Kei Komuro, a Fordham University Law School graduate, works in a New York law firm. He has not yet passed the bar exam, which is another piece of news that the local media has used to attack him, although it is common for him to pass after several attempts.
“I love Mako,” he told reporters last month after their marriage was registered in Tokyo. They did so without a wedding banquet or any of the usual rites of celebration.
“I want to live the only life I have with the person I love,” he said.
Although Japan appears modern in many ways, values regarding family relations and the status of women are often seen as somewhat outdated and rooted in feudal practices.
These views were highlighted in the public’s reaction to the marriage. Some Japanese feel they have a say in such matters because taxpayer money underpins the imperial family system.
Other princesses who were not members of the royal family married and left the palace. But Mako is the first to spark such public outcry, including a frantic reaction on social media and in local tabloids.
Speculation ranged from whether the couple could live in Manhattan to how much money Kei Komuro would earn and whether the former princess would financially support her husband.
Mako is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, who also married non-royal Masako. Masako often struggled mentally in the secluded and organized life of the imperial family. And the negative media coverage surrounding Mako’s marriage gave her what minors’ doctors last month described as a form of stress disorder.
Former Emperor Akihito, father of the current Emperor, was the first member of the imperial family to marry a non-royal. His father was the emperor who fought Japan in the shadow of World War II.
The family has no political power but acts as a symbol of the nation, attending ceremonial occasions and visiting disaster areas, and remains relatively popular.
Mako’s loss of royal status comes from the Imperial House Law, which allows only male succession. Only members of the royal family have family names, while members of the imperial family only have titles and must leave if they marry a non-royal.
Brother expected to become emperor
Mako is the emperor’s younger brother’s daughter, and her 15-year-old brother is expected to eventually become emperor.
Complicating the princess’s pre-marital engagement, which was announced in 2017, was a financial dispute involving Kei Komuro’s mother. Kyodo News reported that the case was recently settled.
When Kei Komuro returned from the United States in September, the couple were reunited for the first time in three years. They met while attending the International Christian University in Tokyo a decade ago.
When announcing their marriage on October 26, the former princess, the museum’s curator, explained her choice.
“He’s someone I can’t do without,” she said. “Marriage is the decision we need in order to live and stay true to our hearts.”