Not everyone approves of this princess’s marriage. She goes ahead anyway
By Emiko Jozuka, Selina Wang and Junko Ogura, CNN
It had all the makings of a modern royal fairy tale: the marriage of a budding lawyer to an actual princess who was ready to leave her palace in Tokyo for a new life in New York.
But since Princess Mako and Kei Komuro of Japan announced their engagement in 2017, their union has been mired in scandal, public disapproval and tabloid frenzy.
Some Japanese do not consider the ordinary son of a single parent to be fit for a princess. Their disdain was confirmed last month when he arrived in Japan for their wedding on October 26 with long hair tied back in a ponytail.
The tabloids have published photos of Komuro, 30’s ponytail from all angles, with some comparing it to a samurai’s top knot. At social media, some tweeted their support for his new look, while others said it was unsuitable for the groom of a royal bride.
A ponytail may not be a big hit in the West, but Japanese people are believed to reflect their status and role through their actions and words. People viewed the ponytail as a sign that Komuro was not conforming to social expectations, according to Hitomi Tonomura, a professor of women and gender studies at the University of Michigan.
“If he was a singer or an artist it would be nice, but people think he is not ‘like a lawyer’ and that he does not look appropriate for someone who will marry a royal woman.” , she added.
Komuro cut her ponytail ahead of Tuesday’s wedding. But it was not over yet.
While most royal weddings are marked by pomp and circumstance, this one will be a muted affair in a registry office followed by a press conference, then Mako’s departure from the royal family and a move to the United States. Some royal watchers say it’s a sign of the times for underage royalty, who are no longer content to abide by the rules of the past about what they can do – and who they can marry with.
Unworthy of a princess?
Princess Mako, who turned 30 on Saturday, is a niece of Emperor Naruhito and grew up in the 1990s within the walls of the imperial house.
As a child, the eldest grandson of the former emperor and empress quickly conquered the public. “His manners are impeccable. People regarded her as the perfect royal, ”said Mikiko Taga, a Japanese royal journalist.
Princess Mako was to attend private Gakushuin University along with other members of the well-to-do elite, but she chose to study a bachelor’s degree in art and cultural heritage at Tokyo International Christian University.
It was there that she met Komuro, a man born only three weeks before her in October 1991, into a family with much lower income.
Raised by a single mother, Komuro lost his father and two grandparents at a young age, according to local media. Graduated from International Christian University in 2014, he worked in a law firm in Tokyo, before winning a scholarship to study law at Fordham School of Law in New York.
Princess Mako’s office takes her in another direction.
In 2014, she attended the University of Leicester in the UK as an exchange student before earning a Masters in Museum and Art Gallery Studies.
Soon after, the couple reunited and in 2017 announced their engagement to a delighted Japanese audience.
At a crowded press conference, the princess said she was drawn to Komuro’s “sun-bright smiles” and learned over time that he was “sincere, strong-minded, a hard worker with a big heart “.
Japanese media have dubbed him the “Prince of the Sea” after the character he played in a beach tourism campaign for the town of Fujisawa, south of Tokyo.
Everything seemed to be going well, but then came the first sign of cloudy water.
The couple had planned to tie the knot in 2018, but their marriage was postponed. The Imperial Family said the delay was due to “lack of preparation,” but others suspect it was due to reports that Komuro’s mother failed to repay the $ 36,000 she borrowed from her former fiance.
Komuro took issue with the account, even issuing a 28-page statement earlier this year, saying his mother believed the money was a gift and that he would pay to settle the dispute. But tabloid gossip had already multiplied to dissect all aspects of his family and his life; some reports have even portrayed him as an unreliable gold digger.
“Although in the United States we might think that the mother’s affairs have nothing to do with Komuro Kei, a grown man, people in Japan saw this as problematic and turned him into a kind young man. , kind and truthful to a calculating opportunist who was after prestige and maybe money, ”said Tonomura, the gender studies expert.
An unconventional union
A chance meeting in college is not the normal route to marriage for a Japanese royal.
Kaori Hayashi, media studies expert and executive vice president of the University of Tokyo, said royal partners are usually carefully chosen from traditional circles with which the imperial family frequents.
Moreover, in Japan, the perception that single mothers are unable to raise decent children still exists, added Tonomura, the gender studies expert.
“In Japan, there is also an intense misogyny that demeans single mothers morally and economically,” she said.
Some say Komuro’s disapproval of education says more about gender inequality in Japan, which has the largest gender gap of any G7 country.
“There is a kind of traditional role of gender segregation for men and women that is played not only in the royal family, but in many institutions here,” said Nancy Snow, professor of public diplomacy at the University of Studies. foreigners from Kyoto.
Komuro’s mother’s alleged financial troubles have tainted the image of ardent royalists in the royal household, which should ideally appear symbolically pure and exist for the spiritual well-being of the Japanese people, Tonomura said.
This point of view, for example, is defended by Kei Kobuta, a YouTuber of royal affairs, who organized a march in Tokyo in the presence of a hundred people last Saturday. He said that many royal watchers like him see Princess Mako as a sister or a girl who made the wrong choice.
“There are so many doubts and apprehensions about Kei Komuro and his mother, and people fear that the image of the royal family is tainted,” Kobuta said.
Pressures of Imperial Life
Years of speculation and insults have taken their toll on Princess Mako.
Earlier this month, the palace revealed that she suffers from Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The princess “feels pessimistic and struggles to feel happy because of the lingering fear that her life will be destroyed,” Princess Mako’s psychiatrist Tsuyoshi Akiyama, director of the NTT Medical Center in Tokyo, told media at the agency of the imperial house.
The princess is not the first Japanese woman in the royal family to feel the pressure of imperial life. Empress of Japan Masako married Emperor Naruhito in 1993, relinquishing a prominent diplomatic career for life in the royal household. The The transition has been difficult for Masako, who has long battled an illness described by doctors as “adjustment disorder”.
“Each case of a female member of the royal family struggling with mental illness has involved different circumstances,” said Ken Ruoff, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University and author of “Japan’s Imperial House in the Postwar Era, 1945- 2019. »
“In the case of Crown Princess Masako at the time, it revolved almost entirely around her being criticized for not having produced the required male heir,” he added.
“Fast forward to the case of Princess Mako, and it revolves entirely around the fact that her marriage is subjected to a level of scrutiny that few marriages go through, especially considering that she will be leaving the royal household.” as soon as she’s officially married. “
Under Japanese law, members of the royal household must relinquish their titles and leave the palace if they marry a commoner. Since there are only 18 members of the Imperial Family, Princess Mako is not the first to go. The last royal to do so was her aunt, Sayako, Emperor Akihito’s only daughter, when she married town planner Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005.
As a woman, Princess Mako was out of line with the throne – Japan’s male inheritance law prevents this from happening. Her role in royal life was to support her male relatives.
As a royal initially, Princess Mako was entitled to a one-time payment of $ 1 million, but in an effort to appease a disapproving audience, she decided to forgo it.
After the marriage, she will move to New York where Komuro works in a law firm.
“It’s a dramatic outing,” Ruoff said. “This is a warning to the Imperial Household. I mean, she’s clearly fed up.
A quiet life
The retirement of Princess Mako and Komuro from the royal spotlight is compared to another famous couple – Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
Markle’s engagement to British Prince Harry sparked controversy when it was first announced in November 2017. Some believed that a divorced, mixed-race American actress had no place in the British royal family .
Over time, British tabloid media coverage of the couple became so toxic that Harry issued a statement in November 2016 condemning the “wave of harassment” Meghan had to endure. Eventually, the couple left the ship, leaving the British Royal Family in January 2020.
But while Princess Mako The royal family’s “dramatic” exit is somewhat comparable to “Megxit” – the term for the British couple’s departure – Ruoff, the historian, said the similarities end there.
“Members of the British Royal Family grow up amidst great wealth. And they also spend a lot of time fundraising directly for a wide variety of charitable causes, so find out how it works. So when Harry and Meghan went to the United States, telling various stories about the royal family, they managed to make millions and millions of dollars, while also draping themselves in left-wing causes that feel good, ” Ruoff said.
“I predict that there is almost no way Mako and her future husband will behave like this after their marriage. In fact, I think what’s going to happen is that they’re just going to go away.
According to Taga, the royal affairs reporter, the days of asking someone to perform the duties they were born with are coming to an end.
“This is why I think it is important that two royals from east and west choose to live as they wish,” she said.
“This marks the beginning of a new era.”
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