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‘Japan’s Meghan Markle’: Princess Mako gives up title to wed ‘commoner’ sweetheart

Former royal planning move to New York after row over marriage triggered PTSD

Japan is facing its own “Megxit” drama as the country’s Princess Mako today officially renounced her royal title by marrying her long-term “commoner” boyfriend.

Princess Mako, niece of Emperor Naruhito, wed lawyer Kei Komuro at around 10am local time, in what CNN described as a “subdued ceremony” that was without “the usual pomp and circumstance of most royal weddings”.

The couple, who announced their engagement in 2017, “have been plagued by years of controversy, public disapproval and tabloid frenzy over a money scandal involving Komuro’s mother” and an unpaid loan, said the news site.

The main hurdle to their union was Komuro’s non-royal roots. “Women in the imperial family cannot ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne, and lose their royal status when they marry a commoner,” explained Japan Today.

The “years of speculation and slurs” about her relationship have “taken their toll on Mako”, added CNN. “Earlier this month, the palace disclosed that she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”

Princess Mako and her husband Kei Komuro

Princess Mako and her husband Kei Komuro at a press conference to announce their wedding at the Grand Arc Hotel in Tokyo on 26 October 2021

Nicolas Datiche - Pool/Getty Images

The newly weds, both 30, have been in the media spotlight since first meeting almost a decade ago, while studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

After becoming the ninth princess in postwar Japan to renounce her status in order to marry a non-royal, Mako will now be known as Mako Komuro. In what the news site described as “an effort to appease a disapproving public”, she has turned down a government payment of up to 153 million yen (£974,000) that is offered to departing royals. 

She is now reportedly planning move to New York City, where Komuro works at a law firm. But “since Japanese imperial family members do not have passports, the princess needs to apply for hers” before she can quit Japan, said the Nikkei Asia news site.

Mako’s departure from the imperial family has reignited debate about Japan’s “shrinking royal line”, which now comprises just 12 women and five men, said Time magazine.

Emperor Naruhito, 61, has a daughter and no sons, but since women cannot ascend Japan’s throne, he has only three eligible successors: his 55-year-old brother (Mako's father), a 15-year-old nephew (Mako's brother) and an 85-year-old uncle.

A poll carried out by the country’s NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute last year found that around 70% of respondents supported the idea of a female emperor.

But members of the ruling conservative elite, including the prime minister, want to “preserve the world’s oldest monarchy the way it is now”, said Time magazine. 

Mako’s decision to marry a commoner and denounce her royal status has been compared with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure from the British monarchy to start a new life in Los Angeles – a move dubbed “Megxit” by the UK press.

Less than two years after their Windsor Castle wedding, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stepped back as senior working royals, with Harry saying during an interview with TV host James Corden that the “toxic” British media were “destroying” his mental health. 

But while Mako is also heading to the US, Ken Ruoff, director of the Centre for Japanese Studies at Portland State University, told CNN that the comparisons ended there.

Harry and Meghan have continued to court the spotlight in the US with book deals, network deals and TV appearances, he said, Mako and Komuro are almost certainly “just going to disappear”. 

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