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Move over Harry and Meghan, Japan's Princess Mako is going un-royal

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Japan enters a new era under Emperor Naruhito

Japan enters a new era under Emperor Naruhito… 02:17

After a two-year delay and amid disapproval from more conservative parts of Japanese society, the emperor’s niece Princess Mako is finally set to marry her non-royal fiancé, Kei Komuro, this month. The pair, who both turn 30 in October, became college sweethearts after meeting at Tokyo’s International Christian University in 2012. They announced their engagement in 2017 and said they intended to wed the following year, but the nuptials were postponed following reports of a financial argument between Komuro’s mother and her ex-fiancé.

The reported dispute, over whether about $36,000 given to Komuro’s mother by her own ex was a temporary loan or a permanent gift — some of which was apparently used to pay for Komuro’s education — cast a distinctly common, even scandalous light on Japan’s staid imperial family.

Japan’s Princess Mako of Akishino attends the Men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic of Serbia and John Millman of Australia on day seven of the Rakuten Open at the Ariake Coliseum, October 6, 2019, in Tokyo, Japan. Koji Watanabe/Getty

Under Japan’s centuries-old rules, female imperial family members automatically forfeit their royal status upon marrying a commoner.

Princess Mako’s father, Japan’s Crown Prince Fumihito, next in line to Japan’s Chrysanthemum throne, had publicly said that Komuro’s family should settle the financial issue before his daughter’s wedding could take place.

Public sentiment then turned against Komuro and his engagement to Princess Mako as Japan’s tabloid media seized on the story about his mother. 

Komuro flew back home from New York this week after graduating from Fordham University with a law degree. He was met at Tokyo’s Narita airport by a throng of reporters. Tabloids and social media commentators were quick to criticize the ponytail he grew while in the U.S.

Kei Komuro, the boyfriend of Japanese Princess Mako, arrives at Narita airport in Narita
Kei Komuro, the fiancé of Japanese Princess Mako, arrives at Narita airport after a flight from New York, in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan, September 27, 2021. KYODO/REUTERS

After Princess Mako and Komuro register their marriage in Japan on October 26, the couple are expected to move to the United States — a move that many have compared to Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s move to California after they largely cut ties with the U.K. royal family.

On Friday, Japan’s Imperial Household Agency also made public that Princess Mako was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, owing, it said, to the media frenzy over her relationship with Komuro.

The revelation echoed that of her aunt Princess Masako, who in 2011 was revealed to be suffering from adjustment disorder characterized by stress-induced depression. She had been under pressure to bear a son but instead gave birth to Princess Aiko.

Enthronement Ceremony Of Emperor Naruhito In Japan
Japan’s Princess Mako (R) attends the enthronement ceremony where Emperor Naruhito officially proclaimed his ascension to the Chrysanthemum Throne at the Imperial Palace on October 22, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool/Getty

Japan’s imperial line of succession has only followed male heirs in its entire 2,600-year history — the longest royal lineage in the world.

The imperial household also confirmed that Princess Mako had decided to turn down a payout of approximately $1.3 million that has been given to other female members of the royal family who’ve relinquish their titles.

Ramy Inocencio


Ramy Inocencio is the Asia correspondent for CBS News based in Beijing.

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