Japan’s Princess Mako Marries Commoner, Loses Royal Status

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
The Associated Press
October 26, 2021 Updated: October 26, 2021

TOKYO—Japanese Princess Mako quietly married a commoner without traditional wedding celebrations Tuesday and said their marriage—delayed three years and opposed by some—”was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts.”

The marriage to Kei Komuro cost Mako her royal status. She received her husband’s surname—the first time she has had a family name. Most Japanese women must abandon their own family names upon marriage due to a law requiring only one surname per married couple.

The couple’s marriage document was submitted by a palace official on Tuesday morning and made official, the government agency in charge of state matters concerning the royal family said. There was no wedding banquet or other marriage rituals for the couple. The agency has acknowledged that many people have not welcomed their marriage.

“For me, Kei-san is a priceless person. For us, our marriage was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts,” Mako said in a televised news conference, using an honorific in speaking of her husband.

Komuro responded: “I love Mako. I live only once and I want to spend it with someone I love.” He said he hopes to be with Mako to share feelings and encourage each other in happy times and difficult times.

“I hope to have a warm family with Mako-san, and I will continue to do everything to support her,” he said.

Princess Mako married
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her husband Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, poses during a press conference to announce their wedding at Grand Arc Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP)

Mako earlier declined a 140 million yen ($1.23 million) payment to which she was entitled for leaving the royal family, palace officials said. She is the first royal family member since World War II to not receive the payment and chose to do so because of criticism of the marriage.

Mako, who turned 30 three days before the marriage, is a niece of Japanese monarch Naruhito. She and Komuro, who were classmates at Tokyo’s International Christian University, announced in September 2017 that they intended to marry the following year, but a financial dispute involving his mother surfaced two months later and the wedding was suspended.

On Tuesday morning, Mako left the palace wearing a pale blue dress and holding a bouquet. She bowed outside the residence to her parents, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her sister Kako, and then the sisters hugged each other.

Japan's Princess Mako bows
Japan’s Princess Mako bows before leaving her home in Akasaka Estate in Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo News via AP)
Japan's Princess Mako, right, hugs her sister Princess Kako
Japan’s Princess Mako, right, hugs her sister Princess Kako, watched by her parents Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, before leaving her home in Akasaka Estate in Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 26, 2021. (Koki Sengoku/Kyodo News via AP)

The couple did not answer questions at the news conference as Mako had expressed unease about responding in person. Instead, they provided written answers to questions submitted by the media beforehand, including those about his mother’s financial issues.

Mako is recovering from what palace doctors described earlier this month as a form of traumatic stress disorder that she developed after seeing negative media coverage about their marriage, especially attacks on Komuro.

“We have been horrified, scared, and saddened … as false information has been taken as fact and that unfounded stories have spread,” Mako said in a written answer to one of the questions.

The dispute involves whether money his mother received from her former fiancé was a loan or a gift. Mako’s father asked Komuro to clarify, and he wrote a statement defending himself, but it is still unclear if the dispute has been fully resolved.

Komuro, 30, left for New York in 2018 to study law and only returned to Japan last month. His hair was tied in a ponytail at the time and the look drew attention as a bold statement for someone marrying a princess in the traditional royal family and only added to the criticism.

Kei Komuro
Kei Komuro (C), the boyfriend of Japan’s Princess Mako, arrives at Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture from the United States, on Sept. 27, 2021. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

The couple will move together to New York to start a new life.

Many in Tokyo wished them good luck.

“Congratulations,” said office worker Yasuhiro Suzuki. “I hope people in America will welcome them.”

Retiree Kenko Suzuki said he expects life in New York will be challenging because they will have to live without people taking care of them. “So I’m rooting for them,” he said.

“There will be different kinds of difficulties as we start our new life, but we’ll walk together as we have done so in the past,” Mako said, thanking everyone who supported them.

Mako, apparently referring to mental health issues, noted “many people have difficulty and hurt feelings while trying to protect their hearts.” She said, “I sincerely hope that our society will be a place where more people can live and protect their hearts with the help of warm help and support from others.”

In Japan, only male royals have household names, while female royal family members have only titles and must leave if they marry commoners.

The male-only succession practice leaves only Akishino and his son, Prince Hisahito, in line to succeed Naruhito. A panel of government-appointed experts is discussing a more stable succession system, but conservatives still reject female succession and allowing women to head the royal family.