When a woman marries, her single status terminates. But for a Japanese princess, an October 26th marriage to her long-time boyfriend ended not only her status as a single woman but also as a member of the royal household. Sadly, for Princess Mako to marry her non-royal Prince Charming, she had to give up being a princess. The two may live happily ever after, but it will be as commoners.
Princess Mako, age 30, is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, and the oldest child of the emperor’s younger brother. Her father is first in line to succeed to the Chrysanthemum Throne. And where is (oops, was) Princess Mako in the line of succession? Nowhere, that’s where. What? Japan’s Imperial Household Law, in effect since 1947, recognizes only male heirs descended from a male line. Apparently the Japanese royal womenfolk are only good for birthing babies, hopefully males who can get in line to take the throne.
On the bright side, Japanese royal women are allowed to get an education. (Former) Princess Mako graduated from International Christian University in Tokyo with a B.A. in Art and Cultural Heritage. She then obtained an M.A. in Art Museum Gallery Studies at the U.K.’s University of Leicester.
Her college education was the beginning of the end of royal status for (Former) Her Imperial Highness Princess Mako. In 2012, she met her now husband, Kei Komuro, a fellow ICU student. Love blossomed like a Japanese cherry tree, and the two began dating. The relationship continued strong, and an engagement was announced in May 2017.
The planned marriage was met with disapproval by her family, the Japanese public, and the media. Why? Because, Mako’s beloved was a (GASP!) commoner–and one raised by a single parent at that. [Brief pause while I check my calendar. Yup! It is 2021.] Mr. Komuro would probably meet with approval from most families. He is a well-educated young man, also age 30, who in May 2021 attained a law degree from Fordham University and is now working at a NYC law firm. He should, thus, be able to provide more than adequately for a wife. But the sentiment in Japan is that he is “unworthy” of a Japanese princess.
Drama in the fiance’s family delayed the nuptials originally planned for 2017. A financial dispute arose about funds Mr. Komuro’s mother used to pay his college tuition. The money had been received from a then fiance of hers. Was it a loan? A gift? Controversy swirled. Mr. Komuro gallantly stepped up to the plate to defend his mother and offer to repay the money which they believed had been a gift. Still wondering why what Komuro’s mother did or didn’t do in her personal life has to do with Mako and Kei. Guess I’m just slow. But the imperial family, the media, and the Japanese public disapproved of the match even more.
As if a delayed wedding and overwhelming disapproval of the marriage weren’t bad enough, Kei then left Japan for three years to pursue his law degree in the U.S. His 2018 departure kept him out of the country until the end of September 2021 when he returned to marry the love of his life. The lovebirds were separated by thousands of miles, but their love for and commitment to each other was undiminished.
Life without Kei in Japan was no picnic for Princess Mako. The relentless, strong criticism of her marital plans took its toll on her. Several weeks before her October 26th wedding, it was announced she’d been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. Perhaps she and Meghan Markle could form a mental health support group; it seems they both experienced family drama, media intrusion, and royal family disputes.
Further drama arose when Kei returned to Japan for the marriage. He sported a ponytail, causing a media frenzy. Apparently suitors of a Japanese princess don’t look suitable with their hair in that style. Overlooked was the fact Kei was wearing a suit jacket and button down shirt, not torn jeans and a t-shirt displaying some crass statement.
So controversial was the marriage between Princess Mako and Kei Komuro that the couple decided to forgo a formal wedding ceremony or any reception. Instead, the two merely went to a local government office and registered their union. Thereafter, they held a press conference at a hotel, a venue they paid for to avoid criticism of tax dollars being spent on anything to do with their marriage. And…surprise, surprise. Kei had cut off his ponytail for the big event.
As a result of the marriage, Princess Mako is now simply (and probably more happily) Mrs. Kei Komuro. Her royal status was terminated; now she is “just” a commoner. According to Japan’s Imperial Household law, an imperial daughter’s marriage to a man outside the royal family demotes her to her husband’s status. But the Japanese government is not totally heartless. It provides a dowry of $1.3 million dollars to royal women leaving the imperial family. Princess Mako admirably turned down this generous offer.
After a relationship lasting almost a decade (an accomplishment in and of itself these days), Kei and Mako are FINALLY married. What now? The couple will again be separated, but just temporarily. Kei will return to New York to work as a law clerk in the corporate and tech groups of Lowenstein Sandler, LLP. while he awaits the results (expected in December) of the bar exam he took in July. Mako has basically been kicked out of the palace (she’s no longer a royal you know) and has moved into her own apartment while she awaits the processing of her visa. She will move to N.Y. to join her husband as the couple plans to make their home in the U.S.
Will Mako and Kei live happily ever after? After all they’ve been through together, let’s hope so. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had a daughter born in the U.S. who grew up to be president? Being a princess is nice, but being a U.S. President would be a way for any woman to make a statement about women’s capabilities. They can produce heirs AND run countries.
Why was there so little U.S. media attention to Princess Mako’s story when we were saturated with the details of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s relationship and marriage? How do you feel about Princess Mako choosing her private life over her public life? Does Prince Charming actually have to be a prince to be “worthy” of a real princess?