No fairytale ending: why Japan’s Princess Mako is stepping down to marry a normal man

The princess has announced her engagement to a commoner – but the not-so-royal wedding is more like a necessity than a tale of love conquering all

Name: Princess Mako.

Age: 25.

Appearance: regular-person-in-waiting.

What does that mean exactly? The emperor of Japan’s granddaughter has announced her engagement.

To whom? To 25-year-old law firm employee Kei Komuro.

What is he like? He has “a smile like the sun”, according to Princess Mako, but she may be a bit biased. They plan to marry next year.

It will be a fairytale royal wedding! Sort of.

Sort of, you say? The thing is, Kei is a commoner, and once the Princess marries him, she’ll become one, too.

Are you sure? That’s not what happens in Shrek 2. Under Japanese law, female royals lose their titles when they marry out. Males don’t.

I suppose it’s an ancient tradition from before sexism was a thing. Sexism was always a thing, and Japan’s Imperial Household law dates from 1947.

In that case, it’s bloody unfair. Not to mention impractical: the Japanese Imperial family has been steadily shrinking for decades, and the princess’s royal duties will have to be divvied up between those left.

Bad luck, freeloaders. Under the same law, only men can inherit the title of emperor. There is now just one male heir in Mako’s generation – Prince Hisahito, who turns 11 this week.

How is Princess Mako taking all this? She has no choice – there are no male royals left in Japan for her to marry. But she seems optimistic: “While I’ve worked to help the emperor and fulfil duties as a royal family member as much as I can,” she said. “I’ve been cherishing my own life.”

Has she got any experience of what it’s like out here for the rest of us? She spent nine months as an exchange student in Edinburgh University and also had a period living in halls of residence at Leicester.

So no. She has also had a job, working as a researcher in a Tokyo museum, and is now studying for a doctorate.

She’s still going to be disappointed the first time she tries the coffee in a Kwik Fit waiting room. The Princess is in line for a one-off leaving payment of about a million quid, which should soften the blow.

Do say: “Let’s wish these two crazy kids the best!”

Don’t say: “One of us! One of us!”

The GuardianTramp

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