Japanese Princess Mako quietly married a commoner without traditional wedding celebrations Tuesday and said their marriage — delayed three years and opposed by some — “was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts.”
The marriage to Kei Komuro cost Mako her royal position. She received her husband’s surname — the first time she has had a family name. Most Japanese women must abandon their own family names upon marriage due to a law requiring only one surname per married associate.
The associate’s marriage document was submitted by a palace official on Tuesday morning and made official, the Imperial Household Agency said. There was no wedding banquet or other marriage rituals for the associate. The agency has acknowledged that many people have not welcomed their marriage.
“For me, Kei-san is a priceless person. For us, our marriage was a necessary choice to live while cherishing our hearts,” Mako said in a televised news conference, using an honorific in speaking of her husband.
Komuro responded: “I love Mako. I live only once and I want to use it with someone I love.” He said he hopes to be with Mako to proportion 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 sustain her,” he said.
Mako earlier declined a 140 million yen ($1.23 million) payment to which she was entitled for leaving the imperial family, palace officials said. She is the first imperial family member since World War II to not receive the payment and chose to do so because of 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’s International Christian University, announced in September 2017 that they intended to marry the following year, but a financial argument involving his mother surfaced two months later and the wedding was suspended.
On Tuesday morning, Mako left the palace wearing a pale blue dress and holding 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 associate did not answer questions at the news conference as Mako had expressed unease about responding in person. Instead, they provided written answers to questions submitted by the media beforehand, including those about his mother’s financial issues.
Mako is recovering from what palace doctors described earlier this month as a form of traumatic stress disorder that she developed after seeing negative media coverage about their marriage, especially attacks on Komuro.
“We have been horrified, scared and saddened … as false information has been taken as fact and that unfounded stories have spread,” Mako said in a written answer to one of the questions.
The argument involves 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 defending himself, but it is nevertheless unclear if the argument has been fully resolved.
Komuro, 30, left for 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 drew attention as a bold statement for someone marrying a princess in the tradition-bound imperial family and only additional to the criticism.
The associate will move together to New York to start a new life.
“There will be different kinds of difficulties as we start our new life, but we’ll walk together as we have done so in the past,” Mako said, thanking everyone who supported the associate.
Mako, seemingly referring 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 society will be a place where more people can live and protect their hearts with the help of warm help and sustain 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 commoner married to a monarch in modern history, collapsed and temporarily lost her voice in 1993 following persistent negative coverage.
Empress Masako, a Harvard-educated former diplomat, has had a stress-induced mental condition for nearly 20 years, in part because of criticism over not producing a male heir.
Some critics say Mako’s marriage highlights the difficulties faced by women in the Japanese imperial household.
Mako’s loss of royal position comes from the Imperial House Law, which allows only male series.
Only male royals have household names, while female imperial family members have only titles and must leave if they marry commoners.
The male-only series practice 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 series system, but conservatives nevertheless reject female series and allowing women to head the imperial family.
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