Princess Mako: Japanese royal to finally marry commoner boyfriend

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Kei Komuro and Princess MakoImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Imperial Household Agency said the date had been set for 26 October

After years of controversy, Japan’s Princess Mako will marry her former classmate, a commoner, this month - and giving up her royal status.

The Imperial Household Agency said the date had been set for 26 October.

The couple were initially set to wed in 2018, but this was put off, reportedly after accounts that Mr Komuro's family had run into financial difficulties.

They are expected to move to the US - where Mr Komuro works as a lawyer - after marriage.

Their movements have been heavily covered in local media.

This excessive media coverage around the princess - whose father is Crown Prince Fumihito - and Mr Komuro's family over the years has caused the princess to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Imperial Household Agency said, according to news outlet Kyodo.

Her aunt, Empress Masako, also suffered from a stress-related illness, having faced intense pressure to produce a male heir. There is often stigma around mental illnesses in Japan.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Komuro was seen sporting a ponytail when he returned to Japan

The couple first met in 2012 as students at the International Christian University in Tokyo.

They were engaged in 2017 and were set to wed the following year. But news later surfaced of Mr Komuro's mother's financial problems - she had reportedly taken a loan from her ex-fiancé and not paid him back.

The palace denied the delay was linked to this, though Crown Prince Fumihito said it was important for the money issues to be dealt with before they got married.

Princess Mako will reportedly forego a traditional lump-sum payment of up to 150 million yen ($1.3m; £0.97m) which is typically given to a member of the royal family upon their departure from the household.

She is also expected to skip the usual rites associated with a royal family wedding. If she skips both the payment and the rites it will make her the first female member of the royal family to do so.

Under Japanese law, female imperial family members forfeit their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

'The Harry and Meghan of Japan'

Mariko Oi, BBC News

Kei Komuro was already a controversial figure, but when he landed in Tokyo earlier this week ahead of the wedding announcement he caused a media frenzy - because of his ponytail.

In a country where appearance plays a big part in people's impressions, some in Japan felt that his new hairstyle was further proof that he was not fit to marry Princess Mako.

It shows the kind of scrutiny and public pressure the pair have been under since they announced their engagement. Reports of his mother's financial issues and allegations that his royal connection got him into his US law school have made headlines.

But the couple's supporters give him credit for withstanding the intense media obsession that comes with being engaged to a member of the country's royal family.

That, and their decision to live in the US, has earned them the nickname "Harry and Meghan of Japan".

Though they are much more low-profile than the British royals, their relationship playing out in the open is a rare spectacle for the world's longest running hereditary dynasty.

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Media caption,

Prince Fumihito was officially declared heir to the throne in November

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