What to expect from Japanese Princess Mako’s controversial non-royal wedding

·3-min read
Princess Mako and Kei Komuro during a press conference to announce their engagement in September 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)
Princess Mako and Kei Komuro during a press conference to announce their engagement in September 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)

Japan’s Princess Mako is set to marry her “commoner” boyfriend Kei Komuro on Tuesday after abandoning her royal privileges and title for a wedding replete with controversy and obsessive tabloid frenzy.

The couple’s nuptials will now take place in a subdued ritual that has been marred by scandal, disapproval and tabloid intrusion, in sharp contrast to what would have been a lavish, royal affair.

The couple, which was initially perceived to be an ideal match in 2017, now faces strong disapproval from the general public, the press and political conservatives.

Over 90 per cent of those polled by AERA magazine believe the marriage was not worth celebrating.

The wedding sparked street protests as well, with some senior citizens raising placards against the union that read: “No! Komuro” and “Do Not Pollute the Imperial Family With This Cursed Marriage.”

Princess Mako, on the other hand, has stood her ground. The wedding will be take place as per schedule on 26 October. The ceremony will be a departure from a regular royal affair expected by many.

The wedding, under usual circumstances, would have involved an official engagement ceremony followed by elaborate Shinto rituals between the daughter of crown prince Fumihito and princess Kiko and Mr Kei, a law student.

These traditional imperial rituals, however, have been called off as the princess will be marrying a “commoner.” Regular festivities will give way to paperwork instead.

The two will also forgo a formal meet with Mako’s uncle and aunt, Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, who would have generally hosted the couple before the wedding.

The wedding will be registered at a government office in Tokyo. This is because Japan’s post-war succession laws decree that women from the royal family who marry “commoners” are removed from the family tree. Women also cannot ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne, which has to be occupied by a male member of the royal family.

Princess Mako will forgo a one-off payment worth 150 million yen (at least £985,000) to which she would normally be entitled to, after which she will leave for New York later this year to begin life as an employee at a Manhattan law firm.

The radical shift in national mood for the wedding comes as a surprise for many, as the couple were perceived to be an ideal one after they had announced their engagement in May 2017. Public perception had then seemed to be in the favour of the happy couple.

Intense media scrutiny and the couple’s decision to dispense with tradition, however, led to them being labelled as “the Harry and Meghan of Japan.” British royal couple Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s marriage sparked a frenzy of scrutiny by the tabloid press in London.

Another hurdle that suspended the Japanese couple’s marriage for years stemmed from a financial dispute involving Mr Kei’s mother over the spending of $36,000 (£25,832). She took the money from her former fiance to pay for her son’s education, sparking debate on whether the money was a gift or a loan.

The wedding was actually supposed to be held in 2018, but was delayed following the controversy over the dispute.

Other media coverage of Mr Kei, including on tabloids and social media, has been unforgiving and touched upon his hair style. Critics have taken issue with Mr Kei wearing his hair in a ponytail.

The princess reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder until earlier this month because of the coverage and public criticism of her wedding.

The couple’s union will be confirmed by them at a press conference in a hotel in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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