A royal wedding in Japan would usually be cause for celebration but the nuptials today of Princess Mako (pictured), the niece of Emperor Naruhito, and her fiancé Kei Komuro have turned into anything but. Instead of the ancient Shinto rituals and elaborate costumes, this wedding, delayed by three years, will be a less romantic matter of submitting marriage-registration papers, followed by a press conference before the couple hightails it to the US for a fresh start.
It all started so well for the university sweethearts, whose engagement was announced to general enthusiasm in 2017. When it subsequently emerged that Komuro’s mother had an unresolved financial dispute with a former fiancé, the public mood soured and the scrutiny began. The wedding was put on hold and Komuro later left for New York, where he is starting out as a junior lawyer. When he reappeared in Japan last month, the media tracked his every move. The ponytail he now sported was mocked and his refusal to engage with waiting journalists was read as further sign of his unsuitability. Princess Mako, 30 this week, will leave the royal family once she marries a commoner, as the rules dictate. She refused a customary one-off payment to start her new life but that hasn’t been enough to silence the critics.
It has been a testing few years: the princess now apparently suffers from PTSD and the once smiley Komuro is being cast in the role of shady gold digger. Arch royalists have even been out on the streets waving placards bearing scurrilous slogans and calling on the princess not to marry Komuro. Many people do feel sympathy and ask whether it should still be the case that royal women who marry commoners have to be ejected from the family. Either way, a new life beckons for the newlyweds; you can imagine them breathing a sigh of relief once the wheels lift off the tarmac.