Japan Princess to Wed Commoner, Forcing Her to Quit Royal Family

September 3, 2017 Updated: September 3, 2017

TOKYO—Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Japanese Emperor Akihito, will wed a former classmate, the Imperial Household said on Sunday, confirming a marriage that will further deplete the royal family since she must become a commoner.

The announcement was aired by public broadcaster NHK.

People look at a street monitor showing a news report about the engagement of Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, in Tokyo, Japan on September 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)
People look at a street monitor showing a news report about the engagement of Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)

Mako is one of only four royal grandchildren. The other three are her younger sister, Kako, her brother, Hisahito, and Crown Prince Naruhito’s daughter, Aiko.

Japan's Prince Hisahito (C) wearing traditional ceremonial attire is accompanied by his father Prince Akishino (2nd L), mother Princess Kiko (centre R) and sisters Princess Mako (L) Princess Kako (R) after the Chakko-no-Gi and Fukasogi-no-gi ceremonies at the Akasaka imperial estate in Tokyo on Nov. 3, 2011. (ISSEI KATO/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan’s Prince Hisahito (C) wearing traditional ceremonial attire is accompanied by his father Prince Akishino (2nd L), mother Princess Kiko (centre R) and sisters Princess Mako (L) Princess Kako (R) after the Chakko-no-Gi and Fukasogi-no-gi ceremonies at the Akasaka imperial estate in Tokyo on Nov. 3, 2011. (ISSEI KATO/AFP/Getty Images)

The shrinking royal population, which mirrors the broader aging of Japanese society, has raised concerns that the prince may also be the last.

Ten-year-old Hisahito is one of four heirs to the throne behind Akihito’s two middle-aged sons, whose wives are in their early 50s, and Akihito’s octogenarian brother, Masahito.

Japan's Prince Hisahito (C), accompanied  by his father Prince Akishino (L) and mother Princess Kiko, arrives at Ochanomizu University affiliated kindergarten for his graduation ceremony in Tokyo on March 14, 2013.      (JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP/Getty Images)
Japan’s Prince Hisahito (C), accompanied by his father Prince Akishino (L) and mother Princess Kiko, arrives at Ochanomizu University affiliated kindergarten for his graduation ceremony in Tokyo on March 14, 2013. (JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP/Getty Images)

The engagement to Kei Komuro, who works in a Tokyo law office, comes after Japanese lawmakers in June approved a bill to allow Akihito to step down, the first abdication by a Japanese monarch since 1817.

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on September 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)

 

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on September 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)

 

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on September 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)

A year ago, the first emperor not to be considered divine said in a rare public appearance that he feared age would make it hard to fulfill his duties. The 83-year-old has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer.

But the legislation, which only applies to Akihito and not future emperors, makes no reference to the controversial topics of whether to revise a males-only succession law or to allow women to stay in the imperial family after marriage.

Conservatives fear doing so would be a first step to letting females inherit the throne.

Mako and Komuro graduated from International Christian University. She has a master’s degree from the University of Leicester and has been working as a researcher at a museum. Her fiance once served as a “Prince of the Sea” to promote tourism near Tokyo, according to media reports.

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, stand during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on September 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, stand during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan on Sept. 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool)