TOPArt & CultureList of 7: Things to Know About Princess Mako

List of 7: Things to Know About Princess Mako

Our list of seven features the emperor's niece who's set to leave the Imperial household following her marriage this week

By Matthew Hernon

Four years after announcing her engagement to Kei Komuro, Princess Mako is finally set to wed her university sweetheart. It won’t have the pomp and circumstance of a traditional royal wedding, but will still surely be a special day for the 30-year-old first child of Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko. To commemorate the momentous occasion, we thought we’d take a look at some things you should know about Princess Mako. 

1. She won’t be a princess for much longer

In fact, by the time you read this she may have already lost her title. According to Japanese law, once a female member of the Imperial family marries a commoner, she is no longer a princess. Several of her ancestors and relatives have gone through the same process beginning with her great aunt Kazuko Takatsukasa. She became the first member of the royal family to marry a commoner in 1950. In 2005, Sayako Kuroda, the only daughter of Emperor Emeritus Akihito and Empress Emerita Michiko, bid farewell to palace life. The last member of the family to lose their royal status before Mako was Ayako Moriya who married in 2018. 

2. Mako turned down a lump sum payment

Under the Imperial Household Finance Act, Mako is entitled to a one-time payment of up to ¥152.5 million. Funded by taxpayers, the sizable amount is intended to help “maintain the dignity” of those female members stripped of their titles after marrying a commoner. Mako is the first Japanese princess since World War II to forgo the money. There will also be no lavish ceremony or official meeting with the emperor and empress prior to the pair registering their marriage. The decision to turn down the cash and keep celebrations to a minimum is believed to be due to intense scrutiny and negative public opinion surrounding the wedding. 

Princess Mako’s engagement to Kei Komuro has proved controversial / Illustration by Anna Petek

3. Following criticism of the wedding, the princess was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder

At a press conference on October 1, Imperial Household Agency officials revealed that Mako had been diagnosed with “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” as a result of public and media pressure. Her engagement to Komuro in 2017 was initially celebrated with the couple due to marry the following year. Then came the revelations about a financial dispute involving Komuro’s mother and her ex-fiancé. He claimed she owed him ¥4 million. Komuro was subsequently painted as a gold digger, an image he hasn’t been able to shake off. Some have even taken to the streets to protest the wedding. Unsurprisingly, this has had a negative impact on Mako’s mental health. 

4. Mako was the first member of the Imperial Family to study at ICU

It is standard practice for members of the Imperial family to study at Gakushuin University which is located in the Meijro district of Tokyo. The prestigious higher education institution, established in 1847, was initially started to educate children of the Japanese nobility. Mako’s parents both attended Gakushuin as did her grandfather, the former emperor and her uncle, the current emperor. Mako, however, is known to be a single-minded individual determined to carve out her own path in life. This included enrolling at Tokyo’s International Christian University (ICU) in 2010. Her younger sister Princess Kako also attended there, as did Komuro. Mako met her future husband at an ICU meeting for students hoping to study abroad. 

5. She was also educated in the UK and Ireland

In her first summer at ICU, Mako went to Dublin with 19 of her classmates for a six-week English language program. As well as learning about Irish literature and history, she was taken to an All-Ireland hurling game. Between 2012 and 2013, she spent nine months in Scotland’s capital, studying art history at the University of Edinburgh. In 2014, Mako was back in Britain, this time at the University of Leicester where she completed an MA in Art Museum and Gallery Studies. She put what she learned to to good use, working as a special researcher at the University of Tokyo’s museum. 

6. She volunteered in secret following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami

Since she was a child, Mako has been enthusiastic about her royal duties and determined to support various charities. Following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, she visited the region, in secret, as a volunteer. Despite using a nickname and trying to remain inconspicuous, some people recognized her. She’s also a strong supporter of the deaf community and like her mother and sister can communicate using Japanese sign language. Her other passions include art, architecture and tennis. She currently serves as the honorary chairperson of the Japan Tennis Association. That’s a role that will be taken on by her sister Kako after Mako ties the knot. 

7. Her father and brother are next in line to the throne

With another woman set to depart, Japan’s Imperial family continues to shrink. As only male offspring are permitted to assume the Chrysanthemum Throne, the future of the world’s oldest continuous hereditary monarchy rests on the shoulders of Mako’s 15-year-old brother Prince Hisahito. Her father Prince Fumihito is next in line to the throne, but at 55 won’t be having any more children. Neither will Prince Hitachi, the 85-year-old brother of Emperor Emeritus Akihito who is third in line to the throne. So, it’s all up to Hisahito to produce a male heir or the centuries-old succession line will be broken. That is, of course, unless they change the rules to allow a woman to rule.