As we discussed earlier this month, Japan’s Princess Mako finally set the date for her wedding to Kei Komuro, a Japanese commoner. Theirs has been a tortured love story, although it started out innocent enough – they were college sweethearts who had been together for years when they originally got engaged. In 2018, Mako called off the engagement, citing her immaturity and the lack of support from her own family. Kei waited for her though – they stayed together even when he was in America, completing his law studies and scoring a job at a big law firm in New York. Once he got his situation settled in New York, they decided to make their move – they would marry and she will move to New York with him and they’ll make a new life for themselves in America, without titles or her family’s money. Some (bonkers) highlights from the NY Times’ coverage of Kei and Mako’s wedding, which happened today:
The simple wedding: The last time the sister of a future emperor of Japan got married, thousands of well-wishers lined the streets as the bride, Princess Sayako, left the palace to attend the ceremony and reception at one of Tokyo’s premier hotels. But when Princess Mako, 30, a niece of the current emperor and an older sister of the likely future sovereign, married on Tuesday, there was just a simple trip to a registry office in Tokyo, handled by royal representatives. In a formal news conference on Tuesday afternoon, the groom, Kei Komuro, looked into the camera and declared: “I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love.”
Japan really hates Kei: When Mr. Komuro returned to Japan late last month to quarantine before the marriage, the scrutiny grew even more frenzied, bordering on the absurd. The media and the public were shocked, simply shocked, by the fact that he arrived from New York sporting a ponytail. One tabloid weekly reported that a royal court official had sneered at Mr. Komuro’s choice to wear a pinstripe suit — as opposed to one in solid black or navy — to meet his future in-laws. In some surveys, as many as 80 percent of respondents have said they opposed the marriage.
Mako’s prepared remarks: At the news conference, held at a hotel less than a mile from the Imperial Palace, the couple sat side by side at a long table and faced a roomful of reporters and a phalanx of cameras. The bride wore a pale blue sheath dress and jacket with a single strand of pearls, while Mr. Komuro wore a dark navy-blue striped suit. In prepared remarks, the princess said: “I acknowledge that there are various opinions about our marriage. I feel very sorry for the people to whom we gave trouble. I’m grateful for the people who have been quietly concerned about us, or those who continued supporting us without being confused by baseless information.”
They had to pay for the conference room themselves?! To avoid having to answer unpleasant questions or address falsehoods, the couple asked to reply in writing to five questions from reporters submitted in advance. To avoid accusations that they were wasting taxpayers’ money, they paid to rent the room for the news briefing.
Kei is getting the Duchess Meghan treatment: Rumors have metastasized and now impugn Mr. Komuro’s character. Critics on social media have branded him a gold digger or a grifter. The media suggested that a biography, posted on the website of Lowenstein Sandler, the law firm where he works in New York, listed awards that were fabricated. A spokesman for Fordham Law School confirmed that Mr. Komuro did in fact earn the awards he listed. Royal watchers say that Mr. Komuro falls short of traditional expectations for Japanese men and that his treatment reflects suspicion of the outside world.
Explaining why Kei is so unpopular in Japan: “Part of it is that Mr. Komuro was not very submissive to Japanese values because he went to international school, is a fluent English speaker and quit a Japanese bank,” said Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of sociology at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. “In Japanese society, people like to see that people are sacrificing part of themselves to society and the group and family,” Ms. Nemoto added. Mr. Komuro, she said, is more “individualistic, trying to prove himself by accomplishing something professionally.”
Mako and Kei are setting off to New York as we speak. She has turned down her dowry of about $1.4 million, so they’ll have to live on Kei’s lawyer salary. She might even get a job though, her background is in art, and maybe some gallery or museum will hire her. I wish them well and I respect their journey so much – they really love each other and I’m so happy that they withstood the barrage of hate and lies directed at them.
The Times article also explained something I didn’t understand, which is why Japanese people can’t just let bygones be bygones and shrug and say “these two are in love, let’s give them space.” While Mako has given up her royal titles and their children will not be in the line of succession now, that could change at some point. In Japan, they’re running out of male heirs and the Japanese government might need to drastically change the succession laws. Japanese people feel like Mako might eventually become a princess again, and they feel “ownership” over her and who she marries. Oh well! It’s done now, and I hope Kei and Mako never go back.
PS… Kei cut his hair for his wedding! He rocked up to Japan earlier this month with a ponytail. Was Mako like “lol, no.”
Photos courtesy of Getty.