What if the biggest royal wedding of the year happened right under your nose?
On October 26, 2021, Japan’s Princess Mako married Kei Komuro in a simple private ceremony, away from any prying TV cameras. In fact, they got married inside a Tokyo registry office instead of having the kind of royal wedding Americans expect thanks to couples like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And after their simple private wedding ceremony, Mako and Komuro actually held a press conference apologizing for the trouble they caused the people of Japan!
But why did their relationship cause so much trouble? What brought them together, and what nearly drove them apart? Keep reading to learn all about why Princess Mako married Kei Komuro!
Who is Princess Mako?
Princess Mako, 30, was born into a privileged life as the first child of Princess Kiko and Prince Akishino, the younger brother of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.
As the niece of the emperor, Mako looked like she would follow a traditional path. She attended the Gakushuin school where Japan’s royals typically study. But it didn’t take long for her to ditch Gakushuin for Tokyo’s International Christian University.
By going her own way, Princess Mako established herself as an independent woman. And along the way, she fell in love with a commoner named Kei Komuro.
Who is Kei Komuro?
Compared to Princess Mako, Kei Komuro, 30, has a very humble background. In fact, when news of his engagement to Mako went public, his “commoner” status was frequently contrasted with the princess he was planning to marry.
News coverage went from bad to worse in 2017 when reporters discovered that Komuro’s mother, a widow, may have gotten a substantial loan ($35,000) from a former fiancé without paying it back. The money was reportedly used to finance Komuro’s education in Japan. This cast a negative light on Komuro.
In 2018, Komuro left Japan to study law at Fordham University in New York City. Sadly, though, controversies over his commoner status and his finances continued to dog him and Mako throughout their relationship.
How did Mako and Kei meet?
At a glance, Princess Mako meeting and eventually marrying Kei Komuro seems like something out of a fairytale. However, it didn’t take a fairy godmother for these two to meet and fall in love.
Mako and Komuro met in 2012 when they were both attending International Christian University. According to some accounts, they met at a gathering of students planning to study abroad. Komuro’s comings and goings from Japan eventually became the center of discussions regarding whether he was fit to marry royalty or not.
One thing that seems certain is that they hit it off almost right away. As Japan Forward reports, Princess Mako gave a press conference in 2017 where she did her best to explain why she loved Komuro: “It is difficult to sum it up in a single word, but Mr. Komuro is someone who always warmly encourages me.”
He loved her and she loved him. It seemed a match made in heaven… until public backlash nearly transformed their relationship into hell.
Facing backlash together
There was no one thing behind the public backlash against their relationship. In fact, it was nearly a perfect storm of controversies.
Initially, the core of the backlash had to do with a member of Japanese royalty marrying a commoner. This was honestly not much different than some of the backlash in England when Prince Harry became engaged to Meghan Markle, an American actress.
The second major cause of backlash about Mako and Komuro is one we have already covered: the $35,000 that his mother received from a former fiancé. Komuro and his mother maintained that the money was a gift and did not need to be paid back. The man who gave the money claimed it was a loan and they owed him. Finally, in an attempt to end the controversy and quell the public backlash, Komuro agreed to pay the money back in a settlement (via BBC).
When Komuro returned to Japan in September 2021 after studying in New York for three years, he faced new backlash for dressing casually and wearing a ponytail. You can see Komuro’s ponytail in the video below.
The Japanese public wondered if the U.S. had been a bad influence on him. They seemed to decide he was less fit than ever to marry Princess Mako, who by law would lose her title if she married a commoner like Komuro. (Interestingly, only female members of the imperial family lose their titles for marrying commoners, not the men.)
Still, Mako and Komuro ended up getting married… just not as quickly as they had originally planned.
A wedding postponed
Mako and Komuro were meant to marry far more quickly than they did. After the two got engaged in September 2017, they were originally slated to get married on November 4, 2018. However, the wedding didn’t take place until October 26, 2021.
Why the long delay? The official reason was that the couple needed more time to plan the wedding ceremony. However, many noted that a delay of three years seemed excessive. It seems the controversy over Komuro’s finances and the huge public backlash Mako and Komuro faced led to the delay. They even faced protests against their marriage.
The backlash was so huge, People reports that Mako was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the ordeal. But nothing was going to stop Mako from marrying the man she loved, no matter what the public thought.
It is even more impressive that Mako and Komuro went through with their marriage when you consider that they did not see each other in person for three years while Komuro studied in New York!
Mako and Komuro finally get married
When Princess Mako and Kei Komuro finally got married, it was very different from a traditional royal wedding.
That’s because Princess Mako decided to skip the traditional royal wedding rites. Instead of a big ceremony, Mako and Komuro had a simple ceremony with an Imperial Household Agency official who registered their marriage with the government. Mako even turned down the traditional payment given to women who leave the royal family. Considering that payment would have been about $1.3 million, it is that much more impressive that she walked away!
Shortly after the ceremony, Princess Mako gave a press conference. As the BBC reports, the press conference was very humble, with Mako saying “I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused and I am grateful for those… who have continued to support me. For me, Kei is irreplaceable — marriage was a necessary choice for us.”
Komuro had his own statement for the public. “I love Mako. We only get one life, and I want to be with the person I love.” He also said, “I feel very sad that Mako has been in a bad condition, mentally and physically, because of the false accusations.”
So, what’s ahead for Mako and Komuro now that they’re married?
Mako and Komuro’s plans after marriage
Now that they are married, it looks like Mako and Komuro would like to live a private life away from the Japanese public. To this end, Mako and Komuro are planning to move to New York, so Komuro can continue his law career. He is currently employed by the New-Jersey based law firm Lowenstein Sandler LLP.
Though Mako and Komuro have been compared to Harry and Meghan, who also fled their royal family for the U.S., the New York Post reports that they will be living in a rented one-bedroom apartment. This is certainly much more modest than the Montecito mansion Harry and Meghan live in! Mako is also applying for a visa to work in the U.S., which proves she has truly given up the royal life.
It might be important for Mako to find work, as Komuro’s law career has hit a bit of a setback recently. It turns out Komuro failed the bar exam that he took this summer; he plans to retake the exam in February (via Daily Mail).
Still, Mako and Komuro will hopefully be happy now that they have the opportunity to build a new life far away from the prying media of their home country.