Princess Mako’s marriage to her college boyfriend, Kei Komuro, robbed her of her royal rank and forced her to leave the family, leaving the imperial household with only 12 women and five males.
Even if it means the death of the monarchy, Japan will uphold tradition in the imperial household.
Princess Mako, the niece of Emperor Naruhito, is marrying her longtime boyfriend, Kei Komuro, after a four-year engagement. Because women in Japan are stripped of their royal rank after marriage, the Princess will leave the family, leaving only 12 women and five men behind.
Mako also declined a 152.5 million yen ($1.3 million) dowry that is customarily paid to women in the royal family who marry, making her the first to do so since World War II because of the scandal surrounding their engagement.
Shihoko Goto, Deputy Director for Geoeconomics at the Wilson Center in Washington and an Asian affairs expert, remarked, “It’s a drastic break from what is expected from women of the royal line.” “To pursue her own path, she is willing to make financial sacrifices and uproot herself from the comfort, safety, and perks of her existence.”
After World War II, Japan’s royal family numbered 67 individuals. There will be only 17 heirs to the kingdom as of Tuesday, with only three heirs to the throne: Prince Masahito, the emperor’s 85-year-old uncle; Crown Prince Fumihito, the emperor’s 55-year-old brother; Hisahito, his nephew and Princess Mako’s brother, is 15 years old. Japan is one of just a few modern monarchs that restricts succession to men, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Morocco.
The wedding of Princess Mako has renewed calls for women to be included in the line of succession as a way to strengthen the world’s oldest, continuous, hereditary monarchy and bring it in line with more modern views about gender equality.
According to a Kyodo News poll conducted in March and April, it is a wildly popular idea. Eighty-five percent of respondents said they would support a female emperor, and nearly as many — 79 percent — said they would welcome the empress passing the throne on to her own offspring.
Ironically, the royal family is powerless to intervene. Japanese law governs the monarchy’s role, including the line of succession. Several high-ranking politicians have discussed modifying the restrictions over the last two decades but to no success.
After the birth of Prince Hisahito, the first male child in four decades, proposed legislation to allow female heirs to be in line to the throne was shelved in 2006. When then-premier Yoshihiko Noda was replaced by Shinzo Abe in 2012, he contemplated enabling princesses to form their own royal branches and preserve their rank when they married.
Ex-Premier Yoshihide Suga recently convened an expert panel to investigate the subject, but the investigation was halted after he failed to gain re-election. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, his successor, is opposed to the throne being passed down through an empress.
While the number of royals has decreased, food, schooling, personal costs, and the salaries of 1,080 personnel, including drivers, gardeners, and archivists of imperial records, cost Japanese taxpayers 25 billion yen ($219 million) this year. They also contribute to relief efforts in the event of a calamity. In comparison, the British Royal Family spent around £50 million ($69 million) in 2019-20, plus an additional £30 million on Buckingham Palace repairs.
Princess Mako and Komuro will file for marriage with the local government on Tuesday, followed by a press conference. Princess Mako’s low-key wedding is a squandered chance for displaying soft power, according to Goto. Japanese royal weddings rarely attract international notice. “This wedding will not have the same consumer purchasing impact as Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle’s weddings in the United Kingdom,” she said.
However, it has the potential to help the economy in other ways. In Japan, royal marriages have been connected to an increase in marriages and births, a long-sought goal in a country where the population is aging. According to a Bloomberg Economics analysis, the number of marriages increased 3.7 percent after Crown Prince Fumihito’s marriage in 1990, compared to a 0.4 percent dip the year before. It reached a high of 9.8% in 1993 when the present emperor married.
A similar pattern can be seen in the number of births.
“We don’t expect Princess Mako’s marriage to have a significant influence on the macroeconomy,” says Yuki Masujima, a Bloomberg Economics Senior Economist. “However, after a severe dip due to the Covid problem, it could have a favorable impact on consumer sentiment and marriage rates.”
The newlyweds intend to reside in the United States after the wedding, with no financial assistance from the royal family or the Japanese government. Princess Mako, who has a master’s degree in art museum studies, has yet to disclose her plans, while her fiance has apparently landed a job with a Manhattan legal company. After years of tabloid criticism, it could be a pleasant break.
“We do not expect Princess Mako’s marriage to have a significant influence on the macroeconomy,” says Yuki Masujima, a Bloomberg Economics Senior Economist. “However, after a severe drop due to the Covid problem, it may have a favorable impact on consumer sentiment and marriage rate.”
The newlyweds intend to reside in the United States after the wedding, without the royal family’s or the Japanese government’s financial assistance. Princess Mako, who has a master’s degree in art museum studies, has not declared her plans, while her fiance apparently got a job with a Manhattan legal company. After years of tabloid scrutiny, it could be a refreshing change of pace.