If you’ve ever heard of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you know that the story is about two people who fall in love and find a way to be together even though their families despise each other. Dramatic, we know! While you may think that the story of Romeo and Juliet is completely fictional, love can actually be quite complicated and, might we even say, heartbreaking! Take the love story of Japan’s Princess Mako—the niece of Japan’s Emperor, Hironomiya Naruhito. In 2017, Princess Mako announced her engagement to her boyfriend, Kei Komuro. While he didn’t come from a dueling family, he was a commoner. Marrying a commoner is a big deal, especially for a princess in Japan. Why? Because Japanese princesses who marry commoners must give up their royal title. Princess Mako was ready to give up her title for love, but the people of Japan weren’t too sure that Komuro was fit to marry her. Why?
It turns out that Komuro’s mother was in a dispute with a former boyfriend about a large sum of money that she claimed he gave her as a gift, but he claimed was a loan. This financial dispute caused embarrassment for the royal family, so the marriage between Princess Mako and Komuro was suspended. After all, was Komuro only marrying the princess for her status and money or was he marrying her truly for love?
In 2018, Komuro left Japan to attend law school in the United States and didn’t return to the country until recently. Why? To marry Princess Mako. They didn’t have a traditional marriage ceremony. Instead, the couple simply registered their marriage at a local government office and held a brief press conference to let the world know that they were married, they’ll be moving to the United States, and they thanked those who supported their union.
Didn’t we say that love could be complicated?
Even so, you might be wondering why this is such big news. First, Princess Mako had to give up her royal title in order to marry a commoner, but if her brother were to marry a commoner, he wouldn’t have to give up his title. Fair? Whether it’s fair or not, it’s the royal tradition of Japan. Only male members of the royal family can ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne. While some believe that this tradition (and law) should be abandoned, the conservative Japanese government doesn’t. And second, since only men can ascend to the throne, the line of succession is very short. The only three people who can currently ascend to the throne are Emperor Naruhito’s eighty-five-year-old uncle, Princess Mako’s father Akishino (also the brother of Emperor Naruhito), and Princess Mako’s younger brother, Hisahito. That leaves the very great possibility that the end of the Japanese monarchy may be near if no additional male heirs are born into the royal family.
Will tradition end one of the oldest monarchies in the world? Or will the people of Japan append their laws and allow a female member of the royal family to ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne? Only time will tell.
Princess Mako is not the first Japanese princess to give up her royal title for love. In 2018, Princess Ayako gave up her royal title to marry her commoner fiancé. Read about the story here.