Japanese Princess Mako of Akishino to renounce her royal status to marry commoner

Emperor's eldest grandchild attracted by university classmate's 'bright smiles like the sun'

Harriet Agerholm
Monday 04 September 2017 10:33
Japanese Princess forced to renounce her royal status so she can get engaged to commoner

Japan's Princess Mako has officially announced that she is giving up her royal status to marry to a commoner.

Confirming her engagement, the eldest grandchild of Japan's Emperor Akihito said she was first attracted to her university classmate, Kei Komuro, by his "bright smiles like the sun".

Under a controversial Japanese law, female royals lose their status on marrying a commoner, while males do not.

The pair talked for the first time at an event for students ahead of a study-abroad programme.

They started dating and she said she learned he was “a sincere, strong-minded, hard worker" who had "a big heart”, Princess Mako said.

The couple had a long-distance relationship while studying overseas – Princess Mako in Britain and Mr Komuro in the US – for one year.

After Mr Komuro proposed to her in December 2013, Princess Mako introduced him to her parents, Prince Akishino, second in line to the Chrysanthemum throne, and Princess Kiko.

Mr Komuro said he was thankful and happy to have been accepted by her parents and her grandparents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Mr Komuro, a legal assistant who enjoys playing jazz piano, vowed they would have “a relaxed and peaceful” home together.

“Having a family still goes beyond my imagination, but I hope to make one that is warm, comfortable and filled with smiles,” Princess Mako said.

Details of their wedding have not been decided, and palace officials say the ceremony was expected sometime around autumn next year after a series of rituals, including one that authorises the engagement.

The development has underlined the dwindling size of Japan's imperial family, which mirrors the decline of the country's population.

Princess Mako's 83-year-old grandfather, Emperor Akihito, has indicated he will abdicate and is expected to do so in late 2018. He will be succeeded by his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

Next in line is Prince Akishino, Prince Naruhito's younger brother. The only person left in the line of succession after that is Princess Mako's little brother, since Prince Akihito's three other grandchildren are all women.

Those who are concerned about the future of the royal family want to allow women to succeed the throne and others to keep their royal status so they can keep performing public duties.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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