Princess 'Never Mind' turns her back on royal privilege to wed a commoner

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The Independent Online

The Emperor and Empress of Japan have ceremonially waved goodbye to their only daughter, who has chosen to renounce her title for love.

Princess Sayako, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, officially bade farewell to her parents on Saturday during complex and traditional rituals ahead of her wedding to a commoner. Tomorrow, she is to marry Yoshiki Kuroda, 40, a Tokyo town planner. The couple are old friends who became romantically involved after a party hosted by Princess Sayako's older brother two years ago.

Princess Sayako, dressed in a 12-layered junihitoe traditional kimono, visited three shrines in the Imperial Palace grounds that are dedicated to legendary Japanese gods and emperors of the past.

Television footage showed the Princess slowly ambling along a wooden balcony wearing her flowing kimono of purple, red and green.

During the ceremonial farewell to her family, the Empress urged her daughter to be a good citizen and to cherish her family.

"I hope that, even in your new life, you will continue to be a good member of society while looking after your household," Empress Michiko said to her departing daughter.

Both mother and daughter are known to be close and Princess Sayako will wear one of her mother's kimonos at her wedding reception. But her decision to marry a lowly town planner has forced her to leave the royal household, which does not allow marriages to commoners. Her children will not be eligible to inherit the throne.

Empress Michiko paid tribute last month to her daughter, who she nicknamed "Our Miss Never Mind", and said that she would miss Princess Sayako's support when she leaves the royal household.

"Sayako was a child who would come over to me serenely and say 'never mind' whenever I was disappointed about a mistake I made or about something that happened unexpectedly," the Empress said in a written statement.

"How fondly we will remember and miss this tender and heartwarming 'never mind' in the days to come," she said.

Princess Sayako, known informally as Nori, is the last of the Emperor's three children to get married.

Her departure from the royal household has contributed to a succession crisis which has cast a shadow over the dynasty, which claims an unbroken lineage of 2,600 years. The royal family has been desperate to produce a male successor to Emperor Akihito because, although there have been eight temporary empresses since the 8th century, current succession rules state that only a man can occupy the throne.

No one from the family has produced a son since 1965. Last month, a panel led by the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the rules should be changed to allow a female to occupy the throne. That would pave the way for the only child of Prince Naruhito, three-year-old princess Aiko, to one day ascend the throne.