Now the sound of wedding bells is within earshot, after the Imperial Household Agency announced on Friday that Princess Mako, the niece of Japan's emperor, would marry her non-royal fiance, Kei Komuro, on 26 October.
But rather than bringing the country together in celebration, their nuptials will take place against a backdrop of scandal, tabloid intrusion and public disapproval of the kind usually associated with British royals.
Japan celebrated when, in May 2017, Mako and Komuro, contemporaries at the International Christian University in Tokyo, said they planned to get engaged later in the year and marry in November 2018.
But in February 2018, the household agency said the wedding had been put off for two years after reports that Komuro's mother was embroiled in a financial dispute linked to ¥4m (£26,700) she had received from her former fiance, some of which was used to pay for her son's education.
Princess Mako of Akishino
Princess Mako is the first child and elder daughter of Prince Fumihito and Princess Kiko, and a member of the Japanese imperial family. She is the niece of Emperor Naruhito and the eldest grandchild of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko.
Early life and education
Princess Mako was born on 23 October 1991 at Imperial Household Agency Hospital in Tokyo Imperial Palace, Chiyoda, Tokyo. Princess Mako has a younger sister, Princess Kako, and a younger brother, Prince Hisahito. She was educated at the Gakushuin School in her Primary, Girls' Junior and Senior High School years. She studied English at University College, Dublin , in July–August 2010. She had an informal talk with the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, and she visited Northern Ireland.
Princess Mako graduated from the International Christian University in Mitaka, Tokyo on 26 March 2014 with a Bachelor's degree in Art and Cultural Heritage. She obtained Japanese national certification in curation as well as a driver's licence while she was an undergraduate student. On 17 September 2014, she left for the United Kingdom where she studied at the University of Leicester for a year, receiving a MA degree in Art Museum and Gallery Studies on 21 January 2016. She also studied art history at the University of Edinburgh for nine months, from September 2012 to May 2013.
In the media
She has been something of an internet idol since 2004, when images of her in sailor fuku appeared on television. An image repository was set up, and a video featuring fanart of Princess Mako was uploaded onto the popular video-sharing website Nico Nico Douga, attracting over 340,000 views and 86,000 comments. The Imperial Household Agency, responding to a request for comment, stated that they are not sure how they should handle this phenomenon, since they see no signs of slander or insults against the Imperial Family.
In 2011, Mako came of age and was conferred Grand Cordon of the Order of the Precious Crown on 23 October. Since then, she has been attending official events as an adult member of the Imperial Family.
In August 2006, Mako visited Vienna, Austria for two weeks on a school-sponsored homestay program. She stayed in the home of an Austrian man who was a colleague of Tatsuhiko Kawashima, her maternal grandfather. Because Mako is interested in art and architecture, she visited the museums, St. Stephen's Cathedral and Schönbrunn Palace.
In July 2011, she worked as a volunteer in the affected areas of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami without revealing her identity.
She is able to communicate using Japanese Sign Language and is interested in the Deaf community, like her mother, Princess Akishino.
She became the project researcher of the University of Tokyo's museum on 1 April 2016.
In May 2017, it was announced that the Princess was expected to marry Kei Komuro, a graduate of International Christian University . The wedding was originally expected to take place in November 2018, but it was postponed for two years due to Kei Komuro and his mother's involvement in a financial dispute over ¥4m she had received from her former fiancé, some of which went towards paying Komuro's tuition fees. The dispute resulted in the imperial family and the public's disapproval of the match. The palace later announced that the media scrutiny had made Mako suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
In September 2021 it was reported that the marriage will take place in the form of a simple ceremony at a government office, with the date later announced as 26 October 2021. It is anticipated that like her paternal aunt, Sayako, Princess Nori, and other princesses who married commoners in recent decades she will formally lose her title and become a commoner upon marriage as required by Imperial Household Law. She also plans to forego the Japanese government's taxpayer funded payment of approximately $1.3m USD given to royal women upon leaving the Imperial Family and will move to America with her husband, who got a law degree from Fordham University in 2021 and is employed by the New York-based law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP.