If you think Meghan and Harry had it bad, just wait till you hear about Japan’s Princess Mako
Japan's Princess Mako married her college sweetheart over the weekend and it's a real ‘Romeo and Juliet’ story.
People will always remember Romeo and Juliet as a romance, but it is actually officially classified as a tragedy. A tale of love and loss, it has sacrifice at its core and it’s far from happily ever after the duo end up. Which is why comparisons between the Shakespearean classic and Japan’s Princess Mako’s recent nuptials should be enough to tell you that there’s much more to her love story than meets the eye. In fact, she and her new husband, Kei Komuro, would probably give Meghan and Harry a run for their money.
A royal and a commoner
A relationship marred in controversy, the couple has been subject to years of abuse from critics. Why? For the simple reason that Princess Mako is a royal and Kei Komuro is not.
College sweethearts, the two met back in 2012 whilst studying at Tokyo’s International Christian University. Announcing their engagement five years later in 2017, Mako said that her husband-to-be had captured her heart with “his bright smiles like the sun”. The sincerity of the statement won the public over and initial media coverage of their relationship was largely positive.
However, as one of the world’s oldest monarchies, Mako’s decision to go against tradition and agree to forfeit her royal status by marrying a commoner was always going to be a topic of contention, and public opinion soon soured.
Allegations of a financial dispute involving Komuro’s mother emerged and the couple – who originally hoped to get married in 2018 – were forced to delay their plans by several years. The imperial household put it down to them needing more time to prepare, but the tabloids suggested otherwise and rumours that Komuro’s mother had failed to pay back several thousands of dollars she had borrowed from a former fiancé grew stronger by the day. Komuro disputed the account, even releasing an almost 30-page statement as to why it wasn’t true but it did nothing but fan the flames of the media frenzy that ensued the scandal.
Later, the public found fault with Komuro’s appearance after he was seen arriving back to Japan from America sporting long hair tied in a ponytail – a hairstyle many deemed “inappropriate” for the future spouse of a princess.
An understated event
The couple still wed despite the controversy though, with the ceremony finally going ahead without much fuss over the weekend. Quite an understated affair, there was none of the usual extravagance that you’d expect of such an event and none of the rites traditionally associated with Japanese royal weddings were adhered to either.
In another historic first, Mako has also chosen to forgo the estimated $1.3million lump sum that female royals receive after they lose their imperial status by marrying a commoner. Hoping to appease the nation’s disapproval of her relationship in doing so, Mako tried to further quash the situation by addressing the public at a press conference earlier this week. Appearing alongside Kei at the event, the newlyweds apologised for any trouble that their union may have caused and extended their profuse thanks to those who have supported them along the way.
“To me, Kei is a very important, indispensable existence,” Mako said. “Up until today, there were only limited opportunities for me to express my feelings and there were some misunderstandings because of that. There was truly unilateral speculation. I felt fear about such spread, and I felt saddened as well,” she admitted.
Reiterating much the same thing, Kei said that there had been plenty of “misinformation” circulated in relation to the couple over the past few years, none of it true. “I love Miss Mako,” he told onlookers. “This is a life lived only once, and I would like to spend my life with the person I love in happiness. Mako and I would like to build a warm, nice family,” he continued. “At the same time, I would like to do the best I can to support Mako. Happy times, unhappy times, we would like to be together, and we will be indispensable to each other.”
History repeating itself
The huge controversy surrounding Mako’s decision to forfeit her imperial title may have you believe otherwise, but she isn’t the first woman to have done so… 16 years ago, her aunt Sayako, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito, did the same when she married town planner Yoshiki Kuroda.
Mako has suffered greatly at the hands of the public though, even despite having another family member (who has been through similar turmoil) to turn to. Earlier this month, the palace disclosed that she suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the intense media scrutiny and CNN reports that Mako’s psychiatrist, Tsuyoshi Akiyama, director of NTT Medical Centre Tokyo, told media that the princess “feels pessimistic and finds it difficult to feel happy due to the persistent fear of her life being destroyed”.
Commenting on how Mako’s experience echoes those of other female royals, Takeshi Hara, a professor at the Open University of Japan and an expert on the imperial family, told NBC News that the whole thing puts forward the idea that “the imperial family as a system can never make women happy”.
Along with traditional tabloid newspapers, Hara said that imperial family members also now have to contend with criticism on social media. “Even if the Imperial Household Agency wanted to regulate it, there’s no way to control it,” he continued. “One just has to open his or her computer and anyone can see what’s been said.”
Much like Harry and Meghan who made headlines with their famous “Megxit” from the royal family, Mako and her new husband are also expected to quietly leave Japan for a new life over in the US in the coming weeks. However, unlike their English counterparts, commentators strongly believe that the Japanese couple won’t be a focus of the media once there and are likely to just “disappear” and live their lives in peace.