Princess Mako of Japan, granddaughter of Emperor Naruhito, married her partner Kei Komuro after four years of engagement, a non-noble person she had met at university in 2012. But instead of a traditional royal wedding, accompanied by grand celebrations , media visibility and national pride, the one between Princess Mako and Komuro was treated with great coldness by the imperial family, and was accompanied by critical and slanderous coverage in the Japanese media due to some scandals related to the groom.
The pressure exerted on the princess for the choice of her future husband led her to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders and to decide to give up both the traditional ceremony and the inheritance that would be due to her.
Princess Mako is 30 years old and the daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko. He is the nephew of Emperor Emeritus Akihito, father of Akishino, who in 2019 had abdicated to give way to his eldest son (therefore Mako’s uncle), Naruhito, the current emperor of Japan. His wedding was scheduled for 2018, but was postponed when it was learned that Komuro’s mother – also 30 – had contracted debts with a former partner for the equivalent of about 30 thousand euros, part of which was used to pay for university expenses. of his son, who had studied in New York where he still lives.
From that moment the couple had begun to receive criticism and insults on social networks from those who believed that the future groom wanted to take advantage of the royal wedding. On presumed pressure from the imperial family, last April Komuro published a 28-page report in which he explained the events related to his mother’s debt and claimed to want to compensate the man.
By now, however, “the damage had been done,” wrote the New York Times.
A few days before the announcement of the wedding, at the end of September, Komuro had ended up on the front pages of the Japanese tabloids and on social networks, accompanied by derision and disdain, for having returned to Tokyo with a pigtail, considered disrespectful and far from the rigor required of the future husband of a princess.
The 1947 law governing imperial family affairs in Japan stipulates that housewives who marry non-noble persons must renounce their institutional role, but still provides for a traditional marriage that sanctions their estrangement from the family and the right to a ‘ inheritance, which in the case of Mako corresponds to the equivalent of approximately 1.2 million euros. Due to the scandal caused by her situation, the princess has however decided to give up both the ceremony and the dowry, and after the wedding she will go to live in New York, where Komuro works in a law firm. Mako was the ninth woman in the Japanese imperial family to marry a non-noble person since the end of World War II, and the first to give up ceremony and inheritance.
The wedding was held privately late Tuesday morning in Tokyo. Instead of the ceremony, on Friday the princess met Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, his wife, on a private visit, and then visited some shrines of her ancestors. On Monday he had met Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emeritus Michiko, both 87. In the early afternoon there was a short press conference in which the couple announced the wedding.
Princess Mako greets her parents and sister as she leaves her residence before the wedding on Tuesday, October 26 (Koki Sengoku / Kyodo News via AP)
The psychiatrist who follows Princess Mako said that due to the widespread disapproval of her marriage to Komuro she “thinks of herself as a worthless person”: “it seems to her that her dignity has been trampled on.”
In recent weeks there have been protests against the wedding: in the city of Ginza, demonstrators have exhibited signs with words such as “Do not poison the imperial house with this cursed marriage”; in an article in a weekly that deals mainly with business it was said that the marriage between Mako and Komuro “will be an international disgrace for Japan”. Although she has decided to give up her inheritance, on social networks Mako is often described as a thief, or accused of faking her stress-related ailments. The media attention and the insistence of judgments on women of the imperial family reflect the most common gender inequalities within Japanese society.
Before Mako, Michiko, who in 1957 was the first common woman to marry a Japanese prince in a long time, and Masako, the current empress, had also been under this kind of pressure. In the years of the Akihito empire (1989-2019), Michiko was appreciated for bringing the imperial family closer to Japanese citizens, but was widely criticized for example for having her private residence renovated or for wearing too many different clothes.
Around the 2000s, however, Masako had come under pressing media attention linked to the perceived need for her to give birth to a son, heir to the future emperor Naruhito. Masako was a former diplomat who had studied at both Harvard and Oxford and for a long time she was banned from making long trips or attending public events to preserve her health. and physical accumulated over time “.
Princess Mako during the inauguration of Emperor Naruhito on October 22, 2019 (EPA / Kazuhiro Nogi / Pool via ANSA)
Akinori Takamori, a professor at Tokyo’s Kokugakuin University and an expert on the imperial family, told al Guardian that the Japanese want Mako and Komuro to be “morally flawless.” In Japan, however, “there is no place for Komuro, and for this reason, despite the affection for the family, Mako cannot stay”. Others believe that the criticism of the couple also depends on how the situation was handled by the imperial family, who did not express support for the princess and indeed hinted at her disapproval on several occasions.
After the first announcement of the marriage, in 2017, Prince Akishino had not given his blessing, claiming that he would have liked his daughter to marry with the benevolence of the Japanese; because of the subsequent scandals his attitude had cooled and finally last November he said that he would approve the marriage only if it was “what [i due] they really wanted. ‘ Recently his wife, Kiko, had made a vague reference to issues on which she and her daughter “disagreed”. According to Yohei Mori, a professor of Communication at the Seijo University in Tokyo, the agency that takes care of the communication of the imperial house, however, “had no strategy” to manage the criticism of Komuro, and it proved inadequate compared to the way in which news circulates today.
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Since the imperial throne in Japan can only be occupied by male descendants, Princess Mako could not have aspired to become empress. Since Naruhito has only one daughter (Aiko, aged 19), the first in the line of succession is Prince Akishino, followed by his only son, the 15-year-old Hisahito, Mako’s younger brother. Komuro is awaiting the results of the US bar exam, which is expected to arrive on November 10th. The princess, on the other hand, has a degree in History and Conservation of works of art at the University of Leicester (United Kingdom): she has not announced her plans for the future, but it is thought that she will be able to enter the world of art in New York.