Princess Mako: Who is Japanese royal giving up her title to marry former classmate?

Japan’s Princess Mako has married her former classmate, “commoner” Kei Komuro – but the pairing hasn’t been without scrutiny.

The couple first met in 2012 while studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

Following their 2017 engagement, the pair were set to wed the following year.

However, reports that Komuro’s mother was experiencing financial difficulties is suspected to be the reason why the event was postponed.

The Imperial Household has maintained the delay was to allow the couple to “to think about marriage more deeply” and “make sufficient preparations”.

Intense media scrutiny and the couple’s decision to dispense with tradition have led to them being labelled “the Harry and Meghan of Japan”.

But who is Princess Mako and what role does she play in the Japanese Royal Family? Here’s everything you need to know.

Who is Princess Mako?

Princess Mako attends the enthronement ceremony at Tokyo’s Imperial Palace in 2019

(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Princess Mako is the 29-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Fumihito and Princess Kiko.

As a member of the Japanese Imperial Family, she is the niece of Emperor Naruhito and the eldest grandchild of Emperor Emeritus Akhito and Empress Emerita Michiko. Her father, Prince Fumihito is next in line to the throne.

She has a younger sister, Princess Kako (26), and a younger brother, Prince Hisahito (15), who is second in line to the throne.

Growing up, she studied at the Gakushūin school, an educational institution originally established to educate the children of Japanese nobility.

She studied for a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Cultural Heritage at the International Christian University in Mitaka, Tokyo, where she met her fiancé. The private bilingual university was established in 1949 as the first liberal arts college in Japan. She graduated in 2014 with Japanese national certification in curation.

Mako also attended University College Dublin in July and August 2010 to study English.

From September 2012 to May 2013, she studied art history at the University of Edinburgh. And in September 2014, she left Japan for the University of Leicester where she studied for an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies.

During this time, she was reported to have stayed in halls of residence, walked freely around the university campus and completed a two-month work experience programme at Coventry Museum, which she described as “a great experience”.

Princess Mako on a visit to the Joya de Ceren archaeological site in El Salvador in 2015

(AFP via Getty Images)

Growing up, the public’s knowledge of the princess was limited, with images of her only released through official, carefully controlled channels.

However, in 2004, an image of her in sailor fuku appeared on television, prompting widespread interest in the then-13-year-old. Sailor fuku is a common style of uniform worn by female middle-school students that consists of a blouse with a sailor-style collar and a pleated skirt. Introduced as a school uniform in 1920, it was inspired by the uniform used by the British Royal Navy at the time.

A video featuring fan art of the princess was uploaded on popular video-sharing website Nico Nico Douga and attracted over a quarter of a million views and 86,000 comments. In response to a request for comment, the Imperial Household Agency said they were unsure of how to react as the response did not seem to be derogatory towards either the princess or the Imperial Family.

Mako is also reported to have been suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of continued press scrutiny regarding her and her fiancé.

According to The Japan News, Mako’s mental health began to decline in 2018-19, with the Imperial Household confirming this diagnosis earlier this month.

In a press conference, the Imperial Household Agency said that Mako began suffering from “feelings of helplessness” due to “repeated criticism and abuse regarding her planned marriage to Kei Komuro”.

Public feeling and media attention has largely focused negatively on the fact that Komuro is not a fellow royal, his mother’s financial problems – and even the length of his hair on a recent return trip to Japan.

“She said she doesn’t think she can bear the situation if it continues, ” said Takaharu Kachi, an aide to the family of Crown Prince Akishino.

“In a country where appearance plays a big part in people’s impressions, some in Japan felt that his new hairstyle was further proof that he was not fit to marry Princess Mako,” reports the BBC.

Despite this, Mako is reported to have been carrying out official duties with no obvious signs of the impact on her mental well-being.

“If the abuse stops, I think her condition will improve,” said psychiatrist Tsuyoshi Akiyama of the NTT Medical Center in Tokyo who has been working with Mako.

When is Princess Mako getting married?

Princess Mako and Kei Komuro during a press conference to announce their engagement in September 2017

(AFP via Getty Images)

Princess Mako officially wed her fiancé Kei Komuru on Tuesday 26 October 2021. Ahead of the nuptials, the royal visited her uncle Emperor Naruhito and aunt Empress Masako.

The princess was photographed arriving at the Imperial Palace to formally report her marriage to them.

Princess Mako arrives at the Imperial Palace

(The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag)

The couple is expected to forgo the usual rituals of the Imperial Family. They will register their marriage as a government marriage before they move to New York, where Komuro has a job lined up with a leading law firm.

By marrying a “commoner”, Mako will be giving up her royal status. She has also said she will forgo a $1m (£742,000) payment traditionally issued to women who secede from the royal family.

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