Modern-day fairy tale of Princess Mako and her 'prince'

The five-year romance between Mr Kei Komuro and Princess Mako (above) culminated in a flurry of well wishes last week when news broke of their impending engagement.
The five-year romance between Mr Kei Komuro and Princess Mako (above) culminated in a flurry of well wishes last week when news broke of their impending engagement. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
The five-year romance between Mr Kei Komuro (above) and Princess Mako culminated in a flurry of well wishes last week when news broke of their impending engagement.
The five-year romance between Mr Kei Komuro (above) and Princess Mako culminated in a flurry of well wishes last week when news broke of their impending engagement. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI

Romance between commoner and Japan's Mako captures imagination across world

A typical weekend date for Japanese Princess Mako and her soon- to-be fiance Kei Komuro, like many young couples deep in the throes of love, involved strolls along the Yokohama bay front, dining in Tokyo restaurants and spending time together visiting museums and at the movies.

When the couple, both 25, went on dates, security was kept to the bare minimum and they usually preferred travelling by train.

The five-year courtship for Mr Komuro, dubbed "Prince of the Sea" when he was tourism ambassador for coastal Fujisawa city, and the princess culminated in a flurry of congratulations last week when news broke of their impending engagement.

The duo met in June 2012 when they were studying at Tokyo's International Christian University (ICU). They were introduced by a mutual friend at a social gathering in a western restaurant in Shibuya, held for local and foreign students to discuss studying abroad.

The princess' parents, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, took a quick liking to Mr Komuro, who has been described in local media reports as an earnest young man who enjoys cooking, playing the violin and skiing. They began seeing each other a month later, and he reportedly first asked for her hand a year after they met.

Their dreamy romance between a royal and a "commoner" is a modern-day fairy tale that has since captured imagination and headlines all over the world. Princess Mako grew up within the rarefied compounds of the grand neo-baroque Akasaka Palace, which hosts visiting state dignitaries to Japan.

 
 

Mr Komuro, whose father died when he was young, lives with his mother and grandfather in an apartment in Yokohama. To help makes ends meet, he worked part-time during his university years at a French restaurant and taught English at a cram school.

Their love has withstood the test of distance when the princess pursued a masters in art museum and gallery studies at Britain's University of Leicester from 2014 to 2015.

Mr Komuro is now a paralegal who also majors in business law as a graduate student at Tokyo's Hitotsubashi University. Princess Mako, meanwhile, works as an affiliate researcher at a museum at the University of Tokyo as she reads a PhD course in museology at the ICU.

A host of traditional rituals await the couple in the run-up to their official engagement which could be as early as next month. A wedding is expected next year.

First, in a betrothal ceremony called Nosai no Gi, Mr Komuro's messenger will visit the Imperial Palace bearing gifts to make the official vow of engagement. Such gifts usually include male and female sea bream, a bottle of sake and bolts of silk that will be used to make the wedding dress. A wedding date will then be set.

While she will lose her royal status upon marriage, she will be paid a one-time lump sum allowance by the state and earn voting rights.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Modern-day fairy tale of a princess and her 'prince''. Print Edition | Subscribe