The Japanese Princess marrying a commoner is a sign of changing times
Love wins this round
May 18, 2017
Recent reports of Japan’s Princess Mako becoming informally engaged to a commoner stirred the country. Her decision to marry a former classmate comes with the aftermath of relinquishing her royal status, thus becoming a commoner as well. Kei Komuro, the 25-year old fiancee of Mako, was presented to her royal parents. So far, they approve.
The anti-climactic love story of the Princess and Komuro does give hope to many—especially with more and more royalty around the world from the younger generation marrying “commoners.” Just take a look at Prince William and Prince Harry.
However, the Princess’ decision and its effect on her royal title is a reflection of Japan’s seemingly outdated traditions. While many hold on to this as part and parcel of their culture and national identity, it may not be sheltered from the wave of modernism for long. Japan’s fundamentally male-centric outlook on its ruling class dates back as far as the Shogun era. Even noblewomen who became empresses were pushed to the background and subjected to a stiff code of conduct of what was expected of them.
Princess Mako’s grandfather, Emperor Akihito, married a commoner as well. The only difference is that Akihito, a prince at that time, was still in line to the throne. Mako has to abdicate her royal title in accordance with Japan’s patriarchal traditions. Something not many of the Japanese with modern sensibilities agree with.
The verdict on Princess Mako’s decision is also enough to rethink these traditions, most especially because of Japan’s ever-shrinking royal family. Emperor Akihito, being a man of firsts, is also expected to be the first emperor after two centuries to step down from his throne after he announced August of last year that his age (83) may hinder the fulfillment of his duties. While conservatives like the Imperial Household Agency still relish in quasi-divine customs, another obstacle faces the royal family. A majority of the succeeding generations are females, which brings up the issue of who will succeed Akihito, considering that one of the candidates is aged 10 and Princess Mako’s youngest brother.
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