Princess Nori of Japan begins new life as plain Mrs Kuroda

David McNeill
Wednesday 16 November 2005 01:00 GMT

Princess Nori of Japan has left behind the world's oldest hereditary monarchy for life with a bureaucrat in a rented Tokyo apartment.

The 36-year-old princess, who will now be known simply as Mrs Sayako Kuroda, surrendered her title and status to marry the commoner Yoshiki Kuroda, a middle-aged Tokyo government official she met as a child.

Emperor Akihito's only daughter took with her a chest of drawers and a table from Tokyo's Imperial Palace, and a £700,000 one-off state payment to help smooth the passage to her new life; the princess must now learn how to drive, go shopping and travel on public transport.

The half-hour Shinto wedding ceremony in a Tokyo hotel was attended by just 31 people, a stripped-down affair compared with the "fairytale" wedding of her brother Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako 12 years ago. Yesterday's wedding failed to capture the public imagination: although hundreds of mostly elderly people lined the streets, most Japanese greeted the television pictures with indifference, and fewer than 10,000 people signed a book of congratulations at the palace.

Princess Masako, who made the opposite journey from commoner to royal, has been diagnosed with depression after failing to produce a male heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Stories of her unhappiness behind the high walls of the Imperial Palace have dented the popularity of an institution that has struggled to find a modern role.

Princess Nori's final message before her marriage hinted that the cloistered palace, which is run by ultra-conservative bureaucrats, was a gilded cage she was not unhappy to escape. Although she admitted to being "almost unimaginably fortunate" in her life, she also said she sometimes felt "lonely" and "full of unease" as she learnt what imperial life meant. In one barbed comment, the princess said her family was "at the bottom of a dark well" in 1993 after her mother suffered a breakdown, which many believe was brought on by the demands of palace life. "Her Majesty collapsed due to unbearable fatigue and distress and lost her power of speech" after "being exposed to a great deal of criticism that had no ground in fact," said the princess.

The empress, looking a pale shadow of the vivacious young commoner who entered the palace decades ago, was on hand to congratulate her daughter and new son-in-law. "The empress then hugged me tightly and told me, 'Everything's going to be OK'," the princess told the press.

Mr Kuroda said he wanted to make a quiet home where his new wife "can feel at ease". The princess is expected to return to her career as an ornithologist after she settles down to her new life.

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