This royal wedding was extraordinary.
When Princess Mako of Japan, the nephew of Emperor Naruhito and the daughter of her younger brother, Crown Prince Fumihito, were married in Tokyo on Tuesday, there was no elaborate ceremony, and no ritual associated with Japanese royal weddings. For the first time, he is abandoning the estimated $ 1.3 million that royal family members receive after losing their royal position by marrying an ordinary person.
Reason: public disapproval of her son-in-law, Kei Komuro, 30, who recently graduated with a law degree, due to a financial dispute involving her mother. Instead of spending their tax money on a marriage that was delayed for years, the couple simply registered their marriage with a government official. In the coming weeks, they are expected to leave Japan quietly for a new life in the United States.
The couple's surprising departure from royalty has delighted the media in Japan and elsewhere, compared with British Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle. Court officials said this month Mark, who turned 30 on Saturday, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because he "could not escape" his attack, Komuro and their families.
Their story also drew attention to the impending doom of the imperial power of Japan, which is said to be the oldest in the world. By ascending the Chrysanthemum throne only to the male bloodline, the family loses members - a total of 17 members now that Mark is married. Naruhito's daughter, Aiko, or Mako and her sister, Kako, are in line because they are women. Now the future of the crown is in the hands of Mark's 15-year-old brother, Prince Hisahito, the only heir to his generation.
Princess Mako, on the right, looks like her sister, Princess Kako, in the company of their parents, Princess Fumihito and Princess Kiko, in Tokyo on Tuesday. Koki Sengoku / AP
Questions about the fate of the royal family are part of a broader debate on the role of women in Japanese society, says Ken Ruoff, director of the Japanese Institute of Japanese Studies at Portland State University and author of the book Imperial House of Japan in the postwar period. , 1945-2019. ”
"We are talking about the national emblem, and if the national emblem is restricted to men only, that means a lot about the status of gender equality in Japan," he said.
Changes in Japanese law after World War II put the emperor in a symbolic role and greatly reduced the size of the royal family, removing 11 of the 12 branches. Of the remaining 17 members of the royal family, five are male, including former Governor Akihito, 87, who was abducted in 2019, and his younger brother, Prince Hitachi, 85.
Family numbers will continue to decline as more of its female members marry, increasing the burden of royal duties on the remaining ones.
The Japanese government has tried to address this issue in the past, with proposals that include restoring the male authority from former branches and allowing women to remain in families after marrying ordinary people. Surveys show that the majority of the population supports the allowing women or their male children to become emperors, but there is strong opposition among conservatives, and the issue came to an end in 2006 with the birth of Hisahito.
"You should be watching this out of curiosity," Ruoff said of the controversy over Mark's marriage, noting that Hisahito would have to marry an ordinary man for lack of alternatives.
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"This recent game with his older sister probably won't help that," said Ruoff.
On Tuesday, Mark was carrying a bouquet of flowers as he walked out of his family's palace, followed by his parents and Kako, 26. (Hisahito did not appear.) In front of a crowd of reporters, the family bowed to one another. , and Mark's sister pulled him into their arms before the bride got into the car without them and headed for the wedding office.
In a statement, Fumihito, better known as Akishino, said he had approved his daughter's "unprecedented marriage" in part because he and Komuro had "never wavered" in their plans despite opposition.
In a press conference later, the newlyweds thanked the family's supporters and apologized to anyone who had been "disturbed" by the marriage.
"I love Mark," said Komuro, "and I want to spend the rest of my life with someone I love."
Marko said Komuro was "very important" to him, and that their marriage "was a necessary decision for us to live while carefully guarding our hearts."