Japan's Princess Mako given permission to marry commoner boyfriend after saga beset by delays

Julian Ryall
Princess Mako and her fiance announcing their engagement - The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Princess Mako and her fiance announcing their engagement - The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Crown Prince Akishino of Japan has given consent for his eldest daughter to marry a commoner, but hinted the financial issues that have dogged the princess’ relationship have not been fully resolved.

“I approve of them getting married,” Prince Akishino, the younger brother of the Japanese emperor and next in line to the Chrysanthemum Throne, told reporters. “If that is what they really want, then I think that is something I need to respect as a parent”.

The prince was speaking at a press conference in Tokyo ahead of his 55th birthday on Monday, nearly two years after the Imperial Household Agency announced that Princess Mako’s planned marriage to Kei Komuro was being postponed.

Pressed on a matter that has been something of an embarrassment to the Imperial family, Prince Akishino said no date has been set for the engagement ceremony or wedding and that the Komuro family still needs to resolve a dispute over money.

“In order for many people to be convinced and celebrate the marriage, I have said that it is important for the issue to be dealt with”, he said. “From my point of view, I do not think they are in a situation where many people are convinced and pleased about their marriage”. 

Japan's Crown Prince Akishino, cente, with his wife Crown Princess Kiko, second right, and their children, Princess Mako, left, Princess Kako and Prince Hisahito in November 2020 - Imperial Household Agency of Japan via AP
Japan's Crown Prince Akishino, cente, with his wife Crown Princess Kiko, second right, and their children, Princess Mako, left, Princess Kako and Prince Hisahito in November 2020 - Imperial Household Agency of Japan via AP

Mr Komuro and Princess Mako, both 29, announced their engagement in September 2018 and set the following November for their wedding.

In February 2019, however, the palace said the wedding was being delayed after reports appeared in the tabloid media concerning a dispute between Mr Komuro’s mother and her former boyfriend over 4 million yen (£28,000) that he allegedly lent her, in part to cover her son’s university costs.

Mr Komuro’s mother reportedly claimed the money was a gift and that she was not obliged to repay it.

Prince Akishino and his wife, Princess Kiko, met Mr Komuro’s mother on a number of occasions and made it clear that they would not give their consent for the wedding to go ahead until any suggestions of impropriety had been resolved.

Princess Mako met Mr Komuro at university in Tokyo before she spent a year at the University of Leicester completing a Masters in Art Museum and Gallery Studies. She managed to keep her identity as a princess secret from her fellow students for the duration of the course, as well as during a two-month work placement at Coventry Museum.

After graduation, Mr Komuro worked briefly as a paralegal for a Tokyo law firm but was reportedly uncomfortable with the media spotlight. He later enrolled in Fordham University, in New York, and intends to take the bar exam in the United States after completing his studies next year.