Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Crown Prince Akishino and niece of Emperor Naruhito, is set to marry Kei Komuro, a classmate from her university days, on Oct. 26.
Traditional rites associated with the marriage of an Imperial Family member such as the "Nosai no Gi" engagement ceremony will not be held. Princess Mako has also decided not to take the lump sum traditionally given to female Imperial Family members who leave the household upon marriage. These decisions are both firsts under the current Constitution. The Imperial Household Agency explained that a situation in which "many people accept the marriage and are happy about it," as requested by Crown Prince Akishino, has not been attained.
In the future, Princess Mako is expected to live in the United States, where Komuro works. We want to calmly watch over the couple's departure.
Komuro's engagement to Princess Mako was informally decided four years ago. Reports then surfaced about monetary trouble involving Komuro's mother, resulting in the marriage being delayed.
Princess Mako remained resolved, and in a document released in November last year, she expressed a strong desire to marry, saying that it was a necessary choice for her life.
Following World War II, the Imperial Family moved closer to the image of an ordinary family. Princess Mako's grandmother, the current Empress Emerita Michiko, became the first commoner to marry into the Imperial Family, and raised her children at her side. Crown Prince Akishino, too, met his wife, the current Crown Princess Kiko, during his time at university, and they have respected the freedom of their children. Considering this, Princess Mako's decision was probably only natural.
The Japanese Constitution states, "Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes." Even if a person is a member of the Imperial Family, any kind of climate that restricts a person from a free marriage is out of step with the times.
At the same time, the activities of the Imperial Family are built upon public support.
It is only natural for information pertaining to the Imperial Family to be reported. But in weekly magazines and other publications, articles intruding upon Komuro's privacy have stuck out.
With Princess Mako's impending marriage, the number of members in the Imperial Family is set to drop to 17. Five of those members are unmarried women who will leave the Imperial Family if they marry.
If this situation goes on, it is feared that the Imperial Family will continue to taper in size. The burden on the remaining members of the Imperial Family will increase, and it will become difficult for them to keep up their activities.
As proposals to offset such concerns, a government panel of experts has suggested allowing female members to remain in the Imperial Family after marriage, or reviving the membership of males from the male line of former Imperial Family branches through adoption.
The government has no time to waste in discussing the future of the Imperial Family if it is to reach a conclusion with broad public support.