The Japanese princess Mako quietly married an ordinary citizen without traditional wedding parties on Tuesday, saying that their marriage – delayed for three years and opposed by some – “was a necessary choice to live while we cherish our hearts”.
The marriage to Kei Komuro cost Mako her royal status. She got her husband’s last name – the first time she’s got a last name.
Most Japanese women have to give up their own family names at marriage due to a law that requires only one surname per. couple.
The couple’s marriage document was submitted by a palace official Tuesday morning and made official, the Imperial Household Agency said.
There was no wedding banquet or other marriage rituals for the couple. The agency has acknowledged that many people have not been well received by their marriage.
“To me, Kei-san is an invaluable person. For us, our marriage was a necessary choice to live while protecting our hearts,” Mako said at a televised news conference, using an honor to speak of her husband. .
Komuro replied, “I love Mako. I only live once and I want to spend it with someone I love.” He said he hopes to be with Mako to share feelings and encourage each other in happy times and difficult times.
“I hope to have a warm family with Mako-san and I will continue to do everything to support her,” he said.
Mako has previously declined a payment of 140 million yen (1.6 million AUD) to which she was entitled to leave the imperial family, palace officials said.
She is the first imperial family member since World War II to have not received the payment and chose to do so due to criticism of the marriage.
Mako, who turned 30 three days before the marriage, is a niece of Emperor Naruhito.
She and Komuro, who were classmates at Tokyo International Christian University, announced in September 2017 that they intended to marry the following year, but a financial dispute involving his mother surfaced two months later and the wedding was suspended.
Tuesday morning, Mako left the palace wearing a light blue dress and with a bouquet. She bowed outside the residence to her parents, Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and her sister Kako, and then the sisters hugged each other.
The couple did not answer questions at the press conference as Mako had expressed displeasure at answering in person. Instead, they provided written answers to questions asked by the media in advance, including questions about his mother’s financial problems.
Mako is recovering from what palace doctors earlier this month described as a form of traumatic stress disorder that she developed after seeing negative media coverage about their marriage, particularly attacks on Komuro.
“We have been horrified, scared and bored … as false information has been taken as a fact and unfounded stories have spread,” Mako said in a written response to one of the questions.
The dispute is about whether money his mother received from her former fiancé was a loan or a gift. Mako’s father asked Komuro to clarify, and he wrote a statement in which he defended himself, but it is still unclear whether the dispute is fully resolved.
Komuro, 30, traveled to New York in 2018 to study law and only returned to Japan last month.
His hair was tied in a ponytail at the time, and the look attracted attention as a bold statement for someone who married a princess in the traditional imperial family and only added criticism.
The couple moves together to New York to start a new life.
Many in Tokyo wished them good luck.
“Congratulations,” said office worker Yasuhiro Suzuki. “I hope people in America will welcome them.”
Retiree Kenko Suzuki said he expects life in New York to be challenging because they will have to live without people taking care of them. “So I go after them,” he said.
“There will be different kinds of difficulties when we start our new lives, but we will go together as we have done in the past,” Mako said, thanking everyone who supported them.
Mako, who apparently referred to mental health issues, noted “many people have difficulty and hurt feelings while trying to protect their hearts.” She said: “I sincerely hope that our community will be a place where more people can live and protect their hearts with the help of warm help and support from others.”
Mako is not the only female royal whose mental health was strained by attacks from inside and outside the palace.
Her grandmother, Empress Emerita Michiko, wife of former Emperor Akihito and the first ordinary married to a monarch in modern history, collapsed and temporarily lost her voice in 1993 after persistent negative coverage.
Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, has had a stress-induced mental state for nearly 20 years, in part due to criticism of not producing a male heir.
Some critics say Mako’s marriage highlights the difficulties women face in the Japanese imperial household.
Mako’s loss of royal status comes from the imperial house law, which only allows male inheritance.
Only male royals have known names, while female imperial family members only have titles and must leave if they marry ordinary ones.
The male-only successor leaves only Akishino and his son, Prince Hisahito, in line to succeed Emperor Naruhito.
A panel of government-appointed experts is discussing a more stable succession system, but conservatives still reject female succession and allow women to lead the imperial family.