TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The unofficial engagement of Princess Ayako, the third daughter of the late Prince Takamado, has been announced by the Imperial Household Agency. This is a heart-warming, auspicious development.
Princess Ayako is a great-granddaughter of Emperor Taisho and has the status of joo (princess). It will be the first time in four years for a princess to marry since Princess Noriko, the second daughter of Prince Takamado, married to become Noriko Senge.
The princess's marriage partner is to be Kei Moriya, an employee of Nippon Yusen K.K.
During a press conference, Princess Ayako expressed her joy by saying, "I'd like to build a happy family full of laughter."
Meanwhile, Moriya said with a smile, "I feel delighted and happy."
Their radiant look, during the press conference, was impressive.
Moriya's mother, who passed away in 2015, played an active part in a nonprofit organisation (NPO) supporting unfortunate children in developing countries.
Princess Ayako's mother, Princess Hisako of Takamado, has attended events related to the NPO.
Princess Hisako introduced Moriya to Princess Ayako in December last year, thus beginning their relationship.
Princess Ayako seemed to really express deep feeling when she said, "I think it might have been a wonderful turn of fate that both of our mothers helped bring us together."
After graduating from Josai International University, Princess Ayako went to Canada to study child welfare and other subjects.
While she is currently working as a research fellow at her alma mater, she also serves as honorary patron of the Canada-Japan Society and other organisations.
Moriya, in accordance with his late mother's wish, also plays an active part as a board member of the NPO.
It can be said that they met by a turn of fate that was linked by their welfare activities.
Following the Nosai no Gi, a formal engagement ceremony, the two will hold a wedding in October.
In keeping with a provision of the Imperial House Law, Princess Ayako will, through marriage, cease to be a member of the Imperial family.
At present, the Imperial family comprises the Emperor and 18 other Imperial family members.
Of them, the number of female members stands at 14: three Imperial princesses who are either a daughter or a granddaughter to the Emperor; and four princesses, including Princess Ayako, who are great-granddaughters or further descendants of Emperor Taisho.
After Princess Ayako marries, the number of unmarried female Imperial family members will be six.
If Princess Mako - the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino - who is scheduled to get married in 2020, leaves the Imperial family, that number will drop by one further.
Female members of the Imperial family are important figures to perform official duties of the Imperial family, such as attending various events.
As things stand now, activities of the Imperial household do not seem able to be maintained as they are done today.
Moreover, the Emperor is set to abdicate on April 30, 2019, and will step back from the forefront, together with the Empress.
The issue of how the Imperial household's activities should be in the post-Heisei era (which ends with the Emperor's abdication) must be considered seriously.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, for his part, said that the shrinking number of Imperial family members is "an important issue, the addressing of which cannot be postponed."
The creation of female Imperial branches is also a task that needs to be discussed in the future.