Dhaka, Bangladesh
Marrying out

Off the Track

Marrying out

Philippa Fogarty

When the Japanese emperor’s granddaughter marries law firm employee Kei Komuro next year, her life will undergo a dramatic change. Princess Mako, 25, will lose her title and leave the cloistered imperial household to live with her husband in the outside world. She will receive a one-off payment, after which the couple will be expected to provide for themselves. She will vote and pay tax, shop and do her own chores. If the couple have children, they will not be royal. But her departure means one fewer to carry out official duties. It is also reigniting debate about the shrinking monarchy, the role women play in it and future succession. Emperor Akihito, 83, has already indicated that he wants to step down. As the female royals get married, the monarchy is expected to contract further. There is only one boy among the younger royals, 10-year-old Prince Hisahito. If nothing changes, the future of the imperial institution will rest solely with him. “If you think about it there is a possibility that all but Prince Hisahito will leave the royal household in 10 to 15 years time,” said Isao Tokoro, professor emeritus at Kyoto Sangyo University. “I think it [the engagement] gave us an opportunity to think about the problem. The system should be reformed urgently so we don’t lose more members from the Imperial family.” Under Japan’s Imperial Household Law of 1947, princesses who marry commoners are removed from the royal family. That same law slashed the number of Japanese royals, removing 11 out of 12 branches of the imperial family as a cost-cutting measure. That means there are no royal males for current princesses to marry. Emperor Hirohito’s daughters lost their titles under the legislation, as did the current crown prince’s sister, Sayako, when she married urban planner Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005. Her transition from closeted princess to commoner attracted considerable attention. Reports described how she learned to drive and practised shopping independently ahead of her wedding. The couple used her lump-sum payment (reportedly $1.3m; £1m) to buy a house and she is now a high priestess of the Ise Grand Shrine. So far Princess Mako’s engagement has not been officially announced. But the young woman seems well-equipped for her new status, with two spells of independent living under her belt. While studying at Tokyo’s International Christian University, she spent nine months as an exchange student at Edinburgh University in 2012-13.

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