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Japan's Crown Prince turns 56, reflects on public, private aspects of daughter's marriage

Crown Prince Akishino (Fumihito) is pictured in a news conference ahead of his 56th birthday, at the Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Nov. 25, 2021. (Pool photo) =Click/tap photo for more images.

TOKYO -- Crown Prince Akishino (Fumihito) spoke candidly about the marriage of his daughter Mako, 30, to Kei Komuro, also 30, during a news conference held ahead of his 56th birthday on Nov. 30 -- the fifth time he has referred to his daughter's marriage while speaking to reporters on the occasion of his birthday.

    While expressing relief as a father, saying he hoped his daughter would be well in her new life, he also revealed that the form the marriage took -- without traditional rites -- was not what he had hoped for.

    The Crown Prince's news conference was originally scheduled to last 20 minutes, but it went on for about an hour. The majority of the questions presented by Imperial Household Agency reporters were about the marriage of his daughter to Komuro, and the Crown Prince answered them politely with a matter-of-fact expression.

    One issue that rose in connection with the marriage, was the line between the "public" and "private" aspects of the Imperial Family. In the news conference, the Crown Prince said that it was fundamental for the Imperial Household to "share the joy and sorrow of the public and carry out its duty while desiring the happiness of the people." He also expressed the view that "'public' is something that should always take priority over 'private,'" and said that he believed Mako had "always given priority to public matters while in the Imperial Family."

    However, that she did not bend when it came to her marriage to Komuro was perceived as giving "private" matters priority. On this point, the Crown Prince commented, "I think marriage is a personal matter, and four years had passed (since the announcement of Mako's informal engagement)." He added that if the "public" were given priority, "she wouldn't be able to marry for 10 or even 20 years." He additionally questioned whether the marriage issue could clearly be designated as "public" or "private."

    The Crown Prince expressed a sense of discomfort about the news conference Mako and Kei Komuro held after registering their marriage. The Crown Prince even described it as an "announcement to reporters," apparently because the couple did not verbally respond to questions at the venue. "Rather than a one-way conference, I wanted them to make it interactive," he said.

    Mako, however, was diagnosed with complex post-traumatic stress disorder caused by public slander in connection with her engagement following reports of a financial dispute between Komuro's mother and his mother's ex-fiance. Considering this, the Crown Prince reflected, "As it was conceivable that an (anxiety) attack could occur during the news conference, I guess it would have been difficult" to take questions at the venue. Nevertheless, he said, "As for her husband (Kei), I think it would have been better for there to have been an opportunity for him to speak for himself and respond to questions."

    Online slander over Komuro's marriage to the former princess has continued, while there have been media reports, mainly in weekly magazines, that could be called bashing.

    The Crown Prince said that while parts of weekly magazine reports were "made up," there were also opinions that should be listened to attentively, and said, "I'm not inclined to deny everything." In contrast to this, he said some posts online said "some quite terrible things." He pointed out that slander in online posts can hurt people or cause them to take their own lives, and that "whether it is in a magazine or online, it is not something that should be permitted."

    The Imperial Household Agency sometimes corrects mistaken information on its website, but it exercises reserve. The Crown Prince said that when one matter is picked up, everything has to be explained, and this requires "a large amount of energy." At the same time, he went as far as to state that it is necessary to consider countering wrong reports and other such information, as well as creating standards for doing so.

    During the news conference, attention turned toward the Crown Prince's memories of Mako. He cited his trip to Madagascar with Mako in 2007, when she was in high school. He said it was their first overseas trip just between them. "While driving by car for about 12 1/2 hours, we observed changes in the botanical landscape, and came into contact with music and dancing at the places we visited, and it remains deeply in my memory," he said.

    On the other hand, he said that when Kei Komuro visited Akasaka Estate in Tokyo's Minato Ward ahead of the marriage, "The meeting lasted for about 20 minutes. It didn't leave an impression on me. It was a very ordinary conversation." Throughout the news conference, the Crown Prince did not refer to Komuro by name, but as Mako's "husband."

    (Japanese original by Kanami Ikawa and Takeshi Wada, Tokyo City News Department)

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