UPDATE: Months after announcing her decision to give up her royal status for love, Japan's Princess Mako has formally announced her engagement to a commoner in a press conference.
While speaking to reporters, the princess said she was first attracted to Kei Komuro's "smile like the sun".
"I was aware since my childhood that I'll leave a royal status once I marry," she said. "While I worked to help the emperor and fulfill duties as a royal family member as much as I can, I've been cherishing my own life."
Princess Mako, 25, the granddaughter of Japan’s Emperor Akihito, is set to marry Kei Komuro, also 25, who is a former classmate of Mako's at International Christian University.
Komuro is also a man of many talents who once worked as a “Prince of the Sea” to promote a local tourism spot near Tokyo, loves to ski, cook and play the violin and has a dream to get involved in foreign affairs, according to local media. He currently works at a law firm.
The couple met each other five years ago at a party where they talked about studying abroad and have been seeing each other since.
The news comes at a time when the 83-year-old emperor Akihito is preparing to abdicate and hand over the Chrysanthemum throne to Crown Prince Naruhito, making it the first abdication in over 200 years.
The upcoming marriage has dire consequences for the royal family as well. Women can’t ascend the Japanese throne and once the princess marries next year, she will immediately lose her princess status — despite being the granddaughter of the current emperor — and according to Japanese tradition, would be obliged to leave the Imperial family.
After Mako marries, the number of Imperial family members will drop to 18 and that of female members to just 13. In addition to Mako, there are six other unmarried princesses who will lose their status if they marry commoners.
“Under the present system, there is the risk that Hisahito will be the only one left in the imperial family,” Keio University Professor Hidehiko Kasahara said.
This new development and the shrinking royal family have sparked a debate over the future of the succession system. The main opposition Democratic Party has been calling to enable princesses to establish their own branches within the Imperial family after they marry commoners; however, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been reluctant to shed their traditions.
As for the wedding, the process building up to the marriage will likely be full of time-consuming rituals, as is common in royal ceremonies. There will be an engagement announcement and then a date for the wedding will be picked after the couple makes a formal request to the emperor and empress.
Awww that's sweet though. I think a true fairytale story is not someone finding someone wealthy but someone finding real Love. #PrincessMako— MissLitCocoa1 (@MissLitCocoa1) May 17, 2017
Marrying a commoner isn’t the only place where Princess Mako has made history. When she started her term at the International Christian University in Tokyo in April 2010, she also became the first member of the Japanese imperial family to attend university.