Entornointeligente.com / TOKYO – She was stoic and regal in public, but Japan’s Princess Mako was hurting inside for years.
All she wanted was for a “peaceful and happy life after marriage” with her fiance, Mr Kei Komuro, 30, now an up-and-coming New York lawyer who graduated in May with a juris doctor degree from the prestigious Fordham University law school.
But a planned wedding on Nov 4, 2018, had to be scrapped in the face of a swirling controversy around financial troubles for Mr Komuro’s family.
On Tuesday morning (Oct 26), though, the couple will finally be able to tie the knot.
They have suffered vicious online attacks, especially from conservative armchair critics who assailed Princess Mako for tarnishing the royal family’s image, causing her to suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Princess Mako, who turned 30 on Saturday (Oct 23), has been “subject to prolonged and repetitive instances of what she felt as slander against her and her family as well as her future husband and his family, and she had been unable to escape from it”, said NTT Medical Centre psychiatrist Tsuyoshi Akiyama, who had diagnosed the princess.
She “felt pessimistic and found it difficult to feel happy due to the persistent fear of her life being destroyed”, Dr Akiyama told a news conference earlier this month.
Princess Mako, who is the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko, and niece of Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, spent her last birthday as a royal in a quiet and contemplative manner.
When she registers her marriage to Mr Komuro on Tuesday, she will lose her royal status and become a “commoner” by Japanese imperial law. (Commoner women, however, can marry into the imperial family and become princesses.)
The Imperial Household Agency (IHA) released photos of Princess Mako taking a walk around the imperial grounds with her younger sister, Princess Kako, 26, though no comment was made to commemorate her birthday.
Princess Mako and Mr Komuro, whose courtship lasted nine years, will meet the press on Tuesday afternoon as husband and wife.
How they met
A photo from Sept 3, 2017 shows Princess Mako and her fiancee Mr Kei Komuro at a press conference to announce their engagement at the Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP
In June 2012, both were undergraduates at Tokyo’s International Christian University (ICU).
Media reports described Mr Komuro as an earnest young man who enjoys cooking, playing the violin and skiing.
He was brought up in a single-parent household as his father died when he was young. Princess Mako, though, grew up within the rarefied compounds of the neo-baroque Akasaka Palace, which hosts visiting state dignitaries to Japan.
While in university, Mr Komuro worked part-time at a French restaurant and as an English teacher at a cram school to help make ends meet. He was also hired to portray the “Prince of the Sea” in a tourism ad campaign in the coastal city of Fujisawa.
The couple kept their romance under wraps by going on discreet dates, which included walks along the Yokohama bayfront and visits to museums. They preferred to travel by train with the security detail kept to a bare minimum.
Both were separated for long periods, with the princess first pursuing a Master in Art in museum and gallery studies at Britain’s University of Leicester from 2014 to 2015.
Mr Kei Komuro, arriving at Narita airport on Sept 27, 2021. PHOTO: AFP
Mr Komuro, on his part, was also overseas after he enrolled in Fordham in 2018 and did not return to Japan until Sept 27 this year to prepare for the wedding. He set tongues wagging by sporting an unkempt ponytail, but has since had a makeover.
The couple also had to deal with controversy when their wedding was called off in 2018 over a dispute for a four million yen (S$47,500) debt involving Mr Komuro’s mother.
Her ex-fiance claimed that the debt arose around 2010 with the amount supposedly for living expenses and as a gift to celebrate Mr Komuro gaining entry to ICU.
The ex-fiance reportedly initially said that he did not intend to seek the money back after breaking up with Mr Komuro’s mother in September 2012.
This apparently created a misunderstanding that the matter was resolved. But the ex-fiance, who remains unnamed, went to the media in 2017.
In April, Mr Komuro issued a 28-page statement detailing the dispute, while offering to clear the alleged debt to settle the row despite the belief that the money was a gift.
The ex-fiance, however, in a statement on Oct 10 said there was “no progress in talks”, though he added that it “pains” him to hear of the pain the issue has caused Princess Mako.
A photo from Jan 2, 2018 shows Princess Mako (right), the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino (left) and Princess Kiko (centre), at the royal family’s annual New Year’s greeting to well-wishers gathered at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP
Given the lingering unease, the wedding will be a no-frills affair with a series of traditional rituals, including the “Nosai no Gi” official engagement ceremony and the “Choken no Gi” official meeting with the Emperor and Empress before marriage, done away with.
In lieu of this, Princess Mako met privately with Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako on Oct 22, and will meet her grandparents, Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko, on Monday.
While female imperial family members traditionally get a lump-sum “dignity” payout of 150 million yen in taxpayers’ money when they leave the household, the IHA said it has accepted Princess Mako’s unprecedented request not to receive the payment.
The father of the bride, Crown Prince Akishino, supports the marriage but is said to be apprehensive of how it is viewed by the Japanese people.
On Tuesday, Princess Mako will move out of the Akasaka estate, likely into a private Tokyo condominium with her husband before leaving for New York, where he has found work.
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