Royal Wedding With A Common(er) Ending–Japanese Princess’ Marriage Terminates Her Royal Status

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.

WONDER-ing Woman:

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?

The Olympic Flame — Torched By The Coronavirus

WHO has declared the coronavius outbreak a pandemic. This health scare has caused pandemonium in the sports world making March Madness even madder with the announcement games will be played without fans present. The craziness has taken its toll on an even higher profile event–the Olympics. While it remains to be seen whether the Olympics will be modified, postponed, or simply cancelled, a very special pre-opening Olympic event has already been torched–the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony.

Ever wonder where the flame comes from that is carried into the stadium for the opening ceremony of each Olympics? Well, it comes from ‘Greece–the country, that is, not the substance used to fry things. But the flame doesn’t simply go from Point A in Greece to Point B in the Olympic stadium in the host country for the Olympic Games. Oh, no. There is all sorts of pageantry and circuitous travel involved.  

So where exactly is Point A? The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia, so Olympia, Greece is Point A for the Olympic flame. The familiar Olympic flame seen today is derived from the ancient practice of keeping a sacred fire burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics on the altar of the sanctuary of Hestia. The flame is a symbol of the continuity between the ancient and the modern Olympic games.

Just getting the fire started is an event unto itself. No one merely flicks a Bic and–voila, a flame is born. No, there’s quite the to do in starting the Olympic flame. It involves an elaborate ceremony with the sun, a mirror, a temple, and eleven Vestal Virgins. I kid you not. The flame is lit by the reflection of sunlight in a parabolic mirror in front of the Temple of Hera. The women lighting the flame represent the Vestal Virgins of Rome–priestesses of Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth (fire place) and home–whose main tasks were to keep the fire lit and to remain virgins. 

Sadly, as announced on March 9th, the coronavirus has torched the Olympic flame lighting ceremony set for today, March 12th. The usual thousands of spectators gawking at Vestal Virgins and a fire ignited by sunlight have been banned due to health concerns. This will be the first time since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics that the ceremony will be held without an audience. Only 100 super special invited and accredited guests will be present to witness the Olympic flame burst forth.

The High Priestess of the Vestal Virgins uses the fire started in the parabolic mirror to light the Olympic torch. Research has not yet confirmed if the initial torchbearer says, “Come on baby light my fire” to the High Priestess at this point. Torch bearers are selectively chosen and must be at least 14 years of age and able to carry the Olympic torch at least 437 yards (400 meters).

Once the Olympic flame is lit, the Olympic torch is off and running–literally. The lighted torch embarks on a scenic seven day relay around Greece. The prefecture of Ilia, where Olympia is located, is one of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus. Anyone but me see an issue with having people run about in a contagious area and then throughout the rest of the country spreading not only Olympic good will but possibly coronavirus as well?  

A handover ceremony is scheduled for March 19th. The torch will thereafter be flown from Greece to Japan, site of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The plane bearing the Olympic flame will land in Miyagi in the northern part of the county at a Japan Air Self-Defense base. Due to coronavirus concerns, organizers are downsizing the arrival ceremony.

A torch which originated in a coronavirus infested Greek prefecture and taken throughout Greece is loaded onto a plane which will transfer the torch (and accompanying germs) to a different continent. Hmm. Good plan? Perhaps if the Japanese base is doing it self-defense job, the plane bearing the torch and presumably a torch bearer possibly contaminated by coronavirus in Greece won’t be allowed to land. 

Another relay procedure in Japan precedes the arrival of the Olympic flame at its final destination , the Olympic stadium in the host city of Tokyo. This relay will pass through all 47 prefectures of Japan and by World Heritage sites such as Mount Fuji over the course of 121 days. The four-month torch relay around Japan begins on March 26th in Fukushima prefecture which is about 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. The relay will end on July 24th at the new $1.43 billion national stadium in Tokyo. Hoping the Olympics won’t be cancelled resulting in Japan having built the stadium, but no one came.  

The modern torch relay ceremony is not an ancient practice. The Germans introduced it for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Whether ancient or not, having a torch runner enter a packed Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony to bring the flame which will ignite the Olympic cauldron is quite dramatic.

Regardless of how dramatic the igniting of the Olympic flame, the torch relay, or the lighting of the Olympic cauldron is, none of these events can compare with the real drama of the 2020 Olympics–the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Olympic organizers have repeatedly stated the Olympics will open as scheduled with the Paralympics following on August 25th. It is hard to imagine more massive crowds than those which would gather to witness Olympic events. How smart or wise is it at this point to offer events where thousands of people from all over the world will gather?

I know I’ll be safe watching Olympic competitions on TV from the comfort of my home, but how safe will the athletes, their families, the officials, and the spectators be at the actual events? Is the chance of winning or bestowing a gold medal worth more than someone’s life or health? I’m sorry, but it may come down to the Olympic flame being ignited but the Olympic games ultimately being torched. 

Just WONDER-ing:

Were you aware of the history behind the Olympic flame? The story of how it is lit? If you won an all-expenses paid trip to the 2020 Summer Olympics, would you go? How wise is it to proceed with such a massive event with a coronavirus pandemic ongoing?








Wrapping Our Heads Around World Geography

We Americans like to think we are so smart. Why even tiny tots in this country know how to use a cell phone, change TV channels with  a remote, and play games on an iPad. Nevertheless, Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to knowledge of geography. We probably couldn’t figure out where Carmen Sandiego was on a map even if we were told the city and country where she was located.

My lack of geographical proficiency was brought to my attention back in April when I was in Washington, D.C. playing tourist. On my tourist bucket list was going down Embassy Row to check out all the foreign embassies. While I recognized the names of all the countries and could place them on the correct continent, I realized that I likely couldn’t point some of them out on a map or give pertinent information about them.

Let’s take Malawi, for example. Ding, ding, ding. Of course Malawi is in Africa. I knew that. OK, but what else do I know about Malawi–other than how to spell it? Um, nothing. Trying to rectify my ignorance, I pulled out a trusty geography textbook–not. I took a modern approach and did research about Malawi online. Perhaps one reason that I (and most likely you too) don’t know about Malawi is that it is among the world’s least developed countries; its economy is heavily based on agriculture. But surely you’re familiar with the country’s capital of Lilongwe. OK, OK. I didn’t know that either. Nor did I know off the top of my head that Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa. Hanging my head in shame.

At least if I am geographically ignorant, I am in good company. The younger generation has been documented to be appallingly lacking in general geographic knowledge. In fact, nearly 75% of 8th graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment Of Education Progress exam. And why should they be proficient? A majority of states today do not require geography courses in middle school or high school. Who needs such classes? I mean we all have a GPS on our cell phone, right? Siri can tell us where a city or country is located if we must know.

Sure we can rely on electronic devices to give us needed geographical information. But our understanding of the world around us and what is happening in it is much deeper if we know where current events are taking place. A truly informed person will have a basic understanding of not only WHAT is going on but WHERE it is occurring.

Let’s look at some news headlines from the past week to see what geographical locations we might need to know about. Anyone know where Fukuoka is and why it is in the news? More basic than that–WHAT is Fukuoka? Well, it’s a city which, before this week, I’d never heard of. I might have guessed it was in Japan, and I’d have been right. To my surprise I learned that Fukuoka is the sixth largest city in Japan. It’s located on the island of Kyushu, one of Japan’s largest islands.

Fukuoka was in the news because it was the setting for a meeting of the G-20 finance ministers. These economic bigwigs, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, needed to put their heads together to discuss revisions to trade rules and finances in light of technological change and protectionism. Given clashes between the U.S. and China (which countries we can ALL find on a map or globe) over trade and technology, the finance ministers are concerned about upsets to the global economy. Not sure why Fukuoka in particular was chosen for the meeting venue, although finance and Fukuoka both do begin with the letter “F.”

Not interested in world politics? How about sports? If so, you should know about Reims. Again, this is not a city about which I have ever heard. Reims is located about 85 miles northeast of Paris and is the unofficial capital of the Champagne wine-producing region. While I’m fairly sure we’ve all heard about that area, I doubt many of us could mark the spot where it’s located with an X on a map.

Some champagne was likely uncorked in Reims Tuesday when the U.S. opened its defense of the Women’s World Cup title with a win in a match against Thailand. Hurray for the red, white and blue! They blew away their opponent by a wide margin–13-0. This score is the most lopsided victory in World Cup history for either men or women. Shall we say the Thais got reamed? Or maybe Reimsed?

For those interested in planning a trip, recent news stories would give one pause when considering the Dominican Republic as a vacation destination. Perhaps you might want to know where that country is located so you can avoid it. Since last year several American tourists have suddenly fallen ill and died while at resorts in this Caribbean location. Furthermore, Boston Red Sox star David Ortiz was the victim of an attempted murder Sunday night outside a popular nightspot in his hometown of Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city.

Looks like this island’s life involves death or brushes with it.Other than that, an informed person should know that the Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola, an island it shares with Haiti. By area, the Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation after Cuba.

Let’s face it. The world may seem to be shrinking because we can probably call anyone anywhere in the world on a cell phone, connect with someone in a foreign country via the Internet, and see what’s happening on another continent in real time on CNN. But the seemingly smaller world contains people with large gaps in their geographical knowledge.

Sure, we can’t know everything about every place. But a good start to becoming geographically proficient is to take the time to determine where a place in the news is and some general information about it. And if we really want to go all out, we might consider having our kids taught some geography before they are sent out into the big wide world as adults.

JUST WONDER-ing: Did you take a geography class in high school? Do you think that geography should be a required subject? How geographically proficient do you think you are?