TOKYO — Former Princess Mako of Japan has been found working at New York’s renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art, as she leaves her royal life behind after marrying her college sweetheart and moving to the U.S. late last year.
The former royal, who’s been keeping a low profile in the bustling metropolis, is credited in a catalogue entry for an exhibition of hanging-scroll paintings at the museum’s Asian art collection. She worked as a volunteer, according to the Japan Times. The works depict scenes from the life of the prominent monk Ippen, who’s known for spreading Buddhism in Japan by reciting prayers as he danced.
Having studied art history at university, the 30-year-old sought to find work in New York’s art scene after giving up her life in the Japanese imperial family. The former royal, who now goes by her husband’s surname Komuro, spent the last five and a half years working at a museum at the University of Tokyo.
After Mako was stripped of her status as an imperial member for marrying her commoner husband, rumors circulated about how the newlyweds would survive in one of the world’s most expensive cities.
On her own accord, Mako Komuro rejected her one-time payment of about $1.35 million usually given to exiting royals.
Such a lack of financial cushioning was worrisome for some of Komuro’s fans. But after learning she secured a working relationship with one of the world’s most prestigious art museums—albeit perhaps unpaid—supporters are reassured.
Shion Naito, a recent high school graduate who hopes to study art history at university, said she was proud of the former princess for finding this opportunity.
“I feel like there was a lot of worry that Mako wouldn’t find employment because she wasn’t really used to working, but it looks like she’s doing just fine,” she told VICE World News.
Naito also said Komuro’s move encouraged her to think beyond education in Japan. “Maybe I should also study abroad like Mako did, or go to college in New York—I shouldn’t just limit myself to Japan,” she said.
Risa Tomita, a 25-year-old server who’s job hunting to become a full-time art curator, echoed Naito’s praise of the ex-princess. “It’s good that Mako is doing something with her degree, especially as Kei is still studying to pass his bar exam,” she told VICE World News.
Kei Komuro has previously failed the exam and recently took it again, in February, though his results haven’t been disclosed yet.
Mako Komuro visiting an exhibition while she was still a royal. Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Mako Komuro studied art and cultural heritage at Tokyo’s International Christian University, where the ex-royal met her now husband. She also attended the University of Edinburgh for a year to study art history, then graduated from the University of Leicester in 2016 with a master’s degree in art museum and gallery studies.
While working as a special researcher at the University of Tokyo’s University Museum, the ex-princess’ engagement to Komuro was embroiled in controversy, as tabloids reported her suitor’s mother owed money.
The Komuros have rejected questions that pry into their private life, though they’ve said they want to build a warm and peaceful household together. The couple reportedly live in a one-bedroom apartment in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.