Overcoming criticism, Japanese princess set to marry on Oct 26

Japanese Princess Mako became engaged to her former college classmate Kei Komuro in 2017.
Japanese Princess Mako became engaged to her former college classmate Kei Komuro in 2017.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Princess Mako will marry her fiance, a former college classmate, on Oct 26, the authorities said on Friday (Oct 1), after years of intense scrutiny and criticism that cast her engagement in an unflattering light.

The 29-year-old niece of Emperor Naruhito became engaged to Mr Kei Komuro, 29, in 2017, and the two initially captivated the public with their smiles at each other in a news conference to announce the event.

But tabloid reports soon emerged about a financial dispute between Mr Komuro's mother and her former fiance, and early in 2018 the marriage was postponed. In August that year, Mr Komuro departed to attend law school in the United States, and did not return until Monday.

The Imperial Household Agency, which runs the lives of the royal family, made the announcement of the wedding date at a news conference.

They also said the princess is suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Kyodo news agency reported - echoing the situation of Empress Masako, who for years has struggled with what has been termed an "adjustment disorder".

Mako will leave the royal family upon her marriage, as is customary. None of the ceremonies that usually accompany a royal marriage will take place, and the princess will forgo a one-off payment of a million dollars to which she is entitled, media reports have said.

The couple will register their marriage at a local government office, with records of the imperial family adjusted to reflect that Princess Mako has left it, reports have said.

The controversy over the pair's marriage started when a tabloid reported claims by a former fiance of Mr Komuro's mother that the mother and son had failed to repay a debt of about US$35,000 (S$47,600). Mr Komuro has said his mother's former fiance provided the money as a gift, not a loan.

The scandal spread from tabloids to regular news media and gained still more life when imperial family members were prompted to speak out. Mr Komuro himself issued a detailed statement this year.

Mr Komuro completed studies at Fordham Law School this year and took the bar exam that will enable him to practise law this summer. He has secured a job as a clerk in a law office in the US, according to media reports.

He flew into Tokyo late on Monday for his first visit in three years, sporting a ponytail that set off widespread tabloid and television discussion about whether he was being disrespectful.

A recent poll by the daily Mainichi showed 38 per cent of respondents supported the marriage, while 35 per cent opposed it, and 26 per cent expressed no interest.