TOKYO • Princess Mako, the 25-year-old eldest grandchild of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will become engaged to a university classmate and is expected to marry next year, media reports said.
The groom-to-be is Mr Kei Komuro, also 25, who lives in Yokohama and was a student at the International Christian University in Tokyo, according to public broadcaster NHK. The Imperial Household Agency later said Mr Komuro is a graduate student at Tokyo's Hitotsubashi University.
Mr Komuro was coy about the relationship when he appeared yesterday before the cameras outside the Tokyo law office where he works. "Now is not the time for me to comment, but I want to speak at the right time," he said.
He did say that he had had a brief phone conversation with Princess Mako in the morning before leaving for his office, telling her "I'm off".
Her response? "Have a good day."
Princess Mako met Mr Komuro about five years ago through a friend at the International Christian University, and later accepted a marriage proposal from him, The Japan Times reported, citing an Imperial Household Agency source.
She has introduced her boyfriend to her parents, and they have approved of the relationship, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
Mr Komuro is said to be an ocean lover who also skis, plays the violin and cooks, according to Associated Press. He once served as a "Prince of the Sea" to promote tourism in a locality near Tokyo.
After graduating from university, Princess Mako has been engaged in official duties as an adult member of the imperial family, including as honorary patron of the Japan Tennis Association.
She is an affiliate researcher at the University Museum of the University of Tokyo, The Japan News reported.
The wedding will be the first among the four grandchildren of Emperor Akihito.
Princess Mako is the daughter of Prince Akishino, the emperor's second son, and his wife, Princess Kiko.
The happy occasion, however, is heating up debate on the ever- shrinking royal family since Princess Mako must become a commoner after marriage, as stipulated by the Imperial House Law.
Japan's Cabinet is expected to approve a Bill tomorrow to allow Emperor Akihito, 83, to step down, the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in nearly two centuries, after he said last August that he feared age would make it hard for him to fulfil his duties, reported Reuters.
But the legislation will make no reference to the controversial topics of whether to revise a male-only succession law or to allow women to stay in the imperial family after marriage, a move conservatives fear would be a first step to letting females inherit the throne.
There are only four heirs to the throne: Emperor Akihito's two middle-aged sons, whose wives are in their early 50s, the emperor's octogenarian brother, and Prince Hisahito, the 10-year-old brother of Princess Mako.
The other two grandchildren of the emperor are female - Princess Kako, the younger sister of Princess Mako, and Crown Prince Naruhito's daughter, Princess Aiko.