It may be fitting that the weather forecast calls for clouds and drizzle in Tokyo on Tuesday, when Princess Mako – the Emperor’s elder niece of Japan – will marry her college sweetheart in a moderate ritual marred by years of criticism of their relationship.
Despite the imperial backdrop – and a thirst for distraction from the public after 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic – their nuptials will involve a lot of paperwork and a little less festivities.
On show, the wedding of Princess Mako and her non-royal boyfriend, Kei Komuro, was never going to match those of his male parents. Japan’s male-only inheritance laws mean that as a female member of Japan’s imperial family, Mako, who turned 30 on Saturday, will never ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne. As usual, she will leave the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to begin her life as a commoner in the couple’s new home in New York.
But the smell of a financial scandal in Komuro’s family that has plagued them since they went public with their relationship four years ago means their union will gain public and media attention for all the wrong reasons. .
Little about the wedding plans to suggest that she is a princess from an ancient royal line, a family whose senior members are revered by the public and the media in a way that would be totally alien to the tabloids. British.
Amid the lingering public unease over the seemingly unresolved financial dispute, Mako skipped several traditional ceremonies, despite meeting Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Friday.
Mako, who agency officials say suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder due to excessive media and public criticism, also refused a payment of $ 1million (Â£ 742,000) in cash of taxpayers which is traditionally granted to women who renounce their royal status.
Confirmation of the marriage will come when the couple hold a simple press conference at a Tokyo hotel on Tuesday.
Her fiance Komuro returned to Japan last month to face criticism over his appearance – he sported a ‘disrespectful’ ponytail when he arrived – before meeting Mako for the first time in three years and visiting his parents, a meeting which, according to the media, started late. because he was stuck in traffic.
“Morally, the Japanese want them to be impeccable”
Japan celebrated when, in September 2017, Mako and Komuro – contemporaries of Tokyo International Christian University – said they planned to get engaged later in the year and get married in November 2018.
But in February 2018, the Imperial Household agency, which oversees the family’s affairs, said the wedding was postponed for two years after the magazine reported that Komuro’s mother was involved in a related financial dispute. to Â£ 4million (Â£ 25,400) she had received from a former fiance, part of which was used to pay for her son’s education.
His financial affairs have generated exclusively negative headlines ever since, leaving Komuro to struggle to defend the reputation of his family and his future wife struggling with mental health issues.
Akinori Takamori, professor at Kokugakuin University in Tokyo, said: âThe royal family should exist without problems related to money, economics or politics.
âMorally, the Japanese want them to be impeccable. There is no place for Komuro in Japan, and therefore Mako, despite the affection for his family, cannot stay. It’s not that they fell out with his family.
Kazuko Ito, general secretary of the Japan-based group Human Rights Now, wrote in an online commentary for President magazine that marrying anyone you choose “is an important human right.”
She said: âMarriage and romance are critically important choices that are directly related to happiness. Since the company tries to deny [Mako and Komuro] this happiness is almost as if the hands of the clock had been returned to the feudal era.
Even Mako’s family seems to have doubts about wedding plans, though their public statements are often open to interpretation.
Her mother, Crown Princess Kiko, admitted that she and her daughter were “at odds on some issues,” while her father, Crown Prince Akishino, only said he would give his blessing to the union, ” if that’s what they really want “. In comments posted on her 87th birthday, Mako’s grandmother, Empress Emeritus Michiko, expressed her “sadness” over the impending move to New York, where Komuro works for a law firm.
For Mako, life on the other side of the Pacific will be a chance to reset and take comfort in a time when the media is not trying to turn two young people into public enemies.
Her dream, she told reporters when announcing her engagement to Komuro in 2017, was simple: “To make a warm and comfortable family full of smiles.”