Japan’s royal wedding falls flat as Princess Mako to marry commoner amid controversy

26-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

For the first time in 28 years, a central member of Japan’s imperial family is getting married on Tuesday yet with the royal wedding just hours away, excitement is largely absent, no crowds are gathering in the capital to wish the young couple well and the impending nuptials are barely causing a stir in the country’s mainstream media.

Instead, the public remains widely hostile to Princess Mako’s choice of husband, her university sweetheart Kei Komuro, as Japan’s tabloid press keeps up its relentless speculation and innuendo about their wedding.

News magazines over the weekend reported that the princess was “in tears” when she was reunited last week in a private meeting with her 30-year-old commoner boyfriend for the first time in three years. They suggested that Mako will have to remain in Japan for some weeks before being able to join her new husband in the United States and aired complaints that it is costing the Japanese taxpayer dearly to protect Komuro’s family including the installation of a police box directly outside his mother’s home where he has been staying since he returned from New York late last month.

Mako is set to move out of the imperial residence on Tuesday, after an official has submitted legal papers to register her marriage to Komuro that morning. The couple then plan to hold a press conference later in the day.

She is expected to live in a Tokyo condominium before leaving for the US, Kyodo News reported, and will also need to apply for a regular passport to replace the diplomatic one typically issued to members of Japan’s imperial family.

Over the weekend, Mako turned 30 her last birthday as a member of the royal household. Under current rules, female members of Japan’s imperial family lose their royal status once they marry a commoner.

“I feel sorry for her,” said Mitsue Nagasaku, a 43-year-old office worker from Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. “What the media is saying now is too much, too intrusive, I believe. This is her choice, she is sticking to her decision to marry Komuro and I think we have to respect that now.”

Nagasaku said she had been upset by some of the media coverage surrounding the couple’s wedding, adding: “I hope they can be happy together and after the move to the US and become a more normal family.”

She pointed to media reports condemning Komuro’s choice of hairstyle he was spotted sporting a ponytail on his return to Japan and subsequent headlines suggesting he had violated the law by having it lopped off at home as evidence of his unfair treatment by the media.

Further unsubstantiated reports, which Nagasaku said carried the unmistakable hint of discrimination, have claimed the Komuro family might be descended from Korean immigrants.

‘Not the time for a wedding’

In light of widespread public opposition, negative press and Mako’s own father, Prince Akishino, making it clear that he was only grudgingly giving his consent to the union, the wedding ceremony itself is being scaled back.

The traditional Nosai no Gi engagement ceremony and Choken no Gi, an official meeting with the emperor and empress ahead of the wedding, have been cancelled, although the princess met last week with Emperor Naruhito, her uncle, and his wife Empress Masako.

She has also paid her respects at the grave of the former emperor, Hirohito, and visited a number of shrines within the grounds of the palace in Tokyo to inform the spirits of her family of the impending marriage and her departure from the Imperial Family.

The princess also met with her grandparents, former Emperor Akihito and former Empress Michiko on Monday. One of the aides for the former emperor and empress said there is no doubt that the couple wishes for Princess Mako’s happiness, as they look on the princess with affection.

The former emperor and empress have been worried about Princess Mako, who has been diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder caused by what she described as psychological abuse the couple and their families received, according to their aide.

The princess first met Komuro at university in Tokyo and they unofficially announced their engagement in September 2017, intending to marry the following year.

But proceedings were postponed after tabloid reports emerged claiming Komuro’s mother had borrowed 4 million yen (US$35,200) from a former boyfriend to cover her son’s university education and was refusing to return it. The most recent reports suggest that the money has still not been returned.

With the wedding on hold, Komuro moved to the US to complete his law studies. He took the bar exam in New York earlier this year and last month returned to Japan for the first time in three years.

Opposition to the couple’s marriage remains widespread even as their wedding day fast approaches.

Protesters have marched through central Tokyo in recent weeks with placards bearing messages such as “Stop the cursed marriage” and “No to Komuro”, while a poll by the weekly magazine Aera determined that 93 per cent of Japanese believe the royal wedding is “nothing to celebrate”.

Ken Kato, a Tokyo-based businessperson who describes himself as an avowed conservative, said he did not think Komuro was “a suitable person” to marry a member of Japan’s imperial family.

Another factor that has cast a pall over the marriage, he said, was the illness of Mako’s maternal grandfather Tatsuhiko Kawashima, an 81-year-old professor emeritus at Gakushuin University who has been in a Tokyo hospital since last week.

“If he dies, then the wedding cannot go ahead,” Kato said. “Many people are now saying that now is not the time for a wedding and that it should be postponed again.”



Category: Japan

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