Japan’s Princess Mako is giving up her one-time payment of about $1.35 million to marry her boyfriend by year’s end, in a union that will conclude years of dispute over her fiancé’s family finances and a debate over royal customs.
Mako has also indicated she’d reject the usual wedding ceremonies, making her the first female royal to marry without a traditional celebration in post-war Japan.
The 29-year-old princess has been engaged to her college sweetheart since September 2017, but rumors about her suitor’s mother owing money prolonged their engagement for nearly four years. Their relationship, though one of love, has long been overshadowed by such tabloid reporting.
But now, with Mako declining the lump sum payment traditionally given to royal members stripped of their status, and her fiancé’s recent arrival in Tokyo, it appears that the couple’s drawn-out betrothal is finally coming to its culmination.
Kei Komuro, who moved to New York to study at Fordham Law school in August 2018, arrived at the capital’s Narita airport on Monday sporting a ponytail. Bowing to members of the press, Komuro wordlessly made his way through the airport. He then travelled to his mother’s house where he’ll be quarantined for two weeks before holding a press conference with his fiancé.
The couple intends to wed in October, when they’ll both turn 30, and move to the United States.
Since February 2018, media reports that Komuro’s mother never paid her former fiancé a debt of about 4 million yen have shrouded the couple’s engagement in controversy and prompted backlash from Japan’s political conservatives.
Family background carries great significance in Japan, and though the scandal didn’t directly involve Komuro, critics suspected his true intentions with the princess. Earlier this year, after admitting that he received financial assistance from his mother’s ex-fiancé, Komuro announced plans to pay his mother’s debt.
But despite criticism, Crown Prince Akishino, Princess Mako’s father and Emperor Naruhito’s younger brother, has shown support for his daughter’s engagement.
“I mean, I approve of them getting married. The Constitution says marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes. If that is what they really want, then I think that is something I need to respect as a parent,” he said last November.
Centuries-old Japanese law strips female imperial members of their status should they marry a commoner. But as the royal family continues to shrink, leaving very few potential heirs, some lawmakers are pushing to change this rule.
Since March, a Japanese government panel has discussed revisions to its laws surrounding imperial succession. In July, the panel first suggested plans to include former royals and female heirs.
After moving to the United States, Komuro will reportedly continue working at a local law firm, Kyodo News reported. He sat the New York state bar exam in early July and will hear his results in mid-December. The princess has not indicated how she’ll spend her days once she leaves the royal family and settles in her new home.