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Princess Ayako engaged to commoner in traditional ceremony

Princess Ayako and Kei Moriya in Tokyo on July 20, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency) (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito's late cousin, became officially engaged Sunday to commoner Kei Moriya in a traditional ceremony in Tokyo.

The betrothal ceremony called "Nosai no Gi" is the first in a series of rites leading up to the wedding on Oct. 29 between the 27-year-old princess and the 32-year-old employee at shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K.

During the ceremony, a messenger from Moriya visited Tokyo's Takamado residence with gifts including sake and sea bream to formally convey the proposal.

The couple first met last December when they were introduced by Princess Ayako's mother Princess Hisako, who had long known Moriya's father and mother, the latter who is now deceased.

Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito's late cousin Prince Takamado and Princess Hisako, whose informal engagement has been announced, is pictured on May 17, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency)

Princess Hisako was hoping to spark her daughter's interest in international welfare activities through meeting Moriya, who is a board member of a nonprofit organization supporting children in developing countries.

Princess Ayako, the third daughter of late Prince Takamado and Princess Hisako, graduated from Josai International University in Chiba Prefecture and earned a master's degree there in 2016. She is currently working as a research fellow at the university's Faculty of Social Work Studies.

Moriya has an international background, having gone to kindergarten in Paris, and attended schools in Switzerland and Britain before graduating from Tokyo's Keio University. He enjoys running in marathon and triathlon races.

After the marriage, Princess Ayako will leave the imperial family as the Imperial House Law stipulates women lose their royal status after marrying a commoner.

Last year, the Imperial Household Agency announced the planned engagement between Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, and Kei Komuro, a commoner who is her long-time boyfriend. But in February, their formal engagement and wedding were postponed until 2020, due to "lack of preparation."

Princess Ayako's future husband Kei Moriya is seen in this photo taken on June 9, 2018. (Photo courtesy of the Imperial Household Agency)

After the marriages of Princess Ayako and Princess Mako, the number of imperial family members will fall from 19 to 17 and that of female members to 12 from 14.

Among the string of rites that will precede their wedding at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, "Kokki no Gi" or the rite of announcing the wedding date, will be held on Sept. 19 at the Takamado residence.

Following the ceremony, the lump sum amount of money to be given to Princess Ayako under Japanese law will be decided at a meeting attended by the prime minister and the speakers of the upper and lower houses.

Sayako Kuroda, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, received about 150 million yen ($1.35 million) when she married Tokyo metropolitan government employee Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005 and Noriko Senge, an older sister of Princess Ayako, around 100 million yen when she tied the knot with Kunimaro Senge, a senior priest of Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Shimane Prefecture, in 2014.

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