Analysis: Japan’s Harry and Meghan? Not so much

On Tuesday, Japan’s Princess Mako — a niece of Emperor Naruhito — wed her lawyer fiancé, Kei Komuro, in a ceremony that was distinctly missing within the traditional bells and whistles.

Whenever you consider royal nuptials, you have a tendency to think about allout celebrations full with a lavish public ceremony, hundreds of well-wishers lining the streets, and a rustic caught up in wedding ceremony fever. However that wasn’t fairly the case right here.

This muted affair additionally marked the top of Mako’s time as a royal. The newlyweds are anticipated to maneuver to New York Metropolis, the place Komuro works at a regulation agency.

Princess Mako arrives for a press conference with her new husband Kei Komuro on Tuesday.

Whereas some might draw comparisons between the couple and the British royal household, the parallels are considerably superficial.

Positive, it is grow to be pretty routine as of late for royals to seek out their “fortunately ever after” with commoners. Within the Windsor clan alone, we have seen the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret marrying photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, William and Kate and, after all, Harry and Meghan. However marrying a non-royal has additionally been accepted in wider European royal monarchies: Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik wed advertising govt Mary Donaldson, and Spain’s then-Crown Prince Felipe married former CNN+ anchor Letizia Ortiz.

And sure, exiting a royal household after falling for a commoner — one disapproved of by some — bears a resemblance to the Sussexes. Harry and Meghan famously stepped again as working royals, in favor of a brand new life in California, however do not count on the Japanese newlyweds to observe go well with.

“British royal members of the family develop up amongst nice wealth. And so they additionally spend loads of time straight elevating cash for charitable causes, so know the way it works,” says Ken Ruoff, director of the Heart for Japanese Research at Portland State College. “So when Harry and Meghan went to the US, by telling varied tales in regards to the royal household, they managed to make thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of {dollars}, all of the whereas draping themselves in feel-good, left-wing causes.”

Ruoff says Mako’s departure is a “dramatic exit” however thinks they will go for a quieter life now they’ve tied the knot. “I believe what is going on to occur is that they’re simply going to vanish.”

Komuro's latest controversy was over the length of his hair upon returning to Japan ahead of the nuptials.
Whereas there are positively floor stage comparisons, Tuesday’s not-so-royal wedding ceremony in Japan is extra nuanced. Most significantly, Mako is not choosing to surrender her royal title. She is dropping it due to Japan’s centuries-old strict imperial regulation.

The 30-year-old is not the primary Japanese princess to swap the palace for a extra odd life. Her aunt Sayako, the one daughter of former Emperor Akihito, was the final to do it in 2005 when she wed city planner Yoshiki Kuroda. However in comparison with that match, Mako and Komuro’s union has confronted an uncommon stage of vitriol from giant swathes of the general public.

It ought to have been a love story for the ages. The school sweethearts introduced their plans to wed in 2017. Pleasure initially rippled throughout Japan however the public’s perceptions started to bitter shortly afterwards.

The marriage — initially deliberate for 2018 — was delayed. Preparations for it have been suffering from public disapproval of the pair’s relationship, and a media frenzy over a monetary dispute involving Komuro’s mom. The controversy even led some to color Komuro as a gold-digger unfit for their beloved princess.

“There are such a lot of doubts and misgivings about Kei Komuro and his mother, and folks concern the picture of the royal household will likely be sullied,” says Kei Kobuta, a royal affairs YouTuber. Kobuta stated many royal watchers view Mako like a sister or daughter, and consider she has made the mistaken alternative.

People took part in a march protesting the wedding on Tuesday.

Many in Japanese society maintain the world’s oldest monarchy — and significantly its ladies — to mercilessly excessive requirements that reinforce patriarchal values, says Kumiko Nemoto, a professor from the College of Enterprise Administration at Senshu College in Tokyo, whose analysis focuses on gender.

“The Japanese public desires to really feel affinity with the members of the imperial household, however additionally they need the household to observe gender roles and household norms the place a girl, they consider, ought to obey the male authority within the household and the nation,” she explains.

In projecting these excessive expectations — that are reflective of a wider gender inequality that exists within the nation — onto the household, Nemoto says the general public generally finally ends up demonizing those that they see as tarnishing the household’s repute. She says many noticed Komuro’s profession within the US as egocentric, and deemed his upbringing by a single guardian as improper.

“Maybe, as a result of many Japanese man and lady proceed to dwell their lives with the massive constraints of gender roles or social strain of conventional household and careers, they might assume {that a} man and a girl ought to sacrifice themselves for the wedding and household,” she provides.

Mikiko Taga, a Japanese royal journalist, tells CNN that Mako — who has represented her household on official journeys to Bolivia and Peru — won over the public from an early age. “Her manners are impeccable. Individuals seen her as the right royal.”

Japanese royals are additionally required to have a sure mystique about them, says Christopher Harding, a senior lecturer in Asian historical past on the College of Edinburgh. “There was no try in Japan to create a ‘media monarchy’ in the way in which that has occurred progressively in Britain. There’s extra deference and respect, though that does not cease some sections of the Japanese media from pursuing tabloid-style gossip tales,” he says.

Mako Komuro (former Princess Mako of Akishino) and Kei Komuro speak to selected press after registering their marriage at a local municipal government.

These smears have taken a toll on the bride who was revealed to be affected by complicated post-traumatic stress dysfunction earlier this month. She’s not the primary of Japan’s royal ladies to undergo the extreme strain of public scrutiny.

“The current Empress, Masako, has a well-documented historical past of struggles together with her psychological well being. So too does her mother-in-law, Empress Emerita Michiko,” provides Harding, who explores Masako’s function in his guide, “The Japanese: A History in Twenty Lives.”

Harding says Masako married into the imperial household believing she might proceed her diplomatic profession. “The fact has been much less form, at the least till just lately. Masako discovered that her most important obligation was to provide an inheritor.”

“Feminists in Japan, america and elsewhere had been deeply disillusioned, as a result of they hoped that she would possibly symbolize a contemporary begin,” Harding continues. “The Japanese public are usually sympathetic to the toll on psychological well being {that a} royal function can contain. However there has additionally been suspicion that psychological well being diagnoses are used to deflect criticism, or cowl up shortcomings.”

“This was significantly the case with Masako,” he provides. “She required relaxation, as a part of her therapy, however some criticised her for shirking her duties, and letting her husband do all of the work.”

Japanese Emperor Nakuhito and Empress Masako visit an exhibition marking his enthronement at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Feb. 10, 2020.
As a girl, Mako wasn’t in line to the throne — Japan’s conservative and patriarchal succession regulation blocks that. As a substitute, her function in royal life was to help her male kinfolk. However the guidelines have not always been this way. Empresses have dominated Japan at varied factors over a number of centuries — till they had been barred in 1889.

Mako’s departure will as soon as once more reignite the controversy on whether or not imperial regulation ought to be amended to permit ladies who marry commoners to maintain their royal titles as males do, and consequently bolster the dwindling line of succession.

For some, the concept of a so-called “empress regnant” on the Chrysanthemum throne is a barrier to modernizing the monarchy. However Harding says the actual sticking level is the potential lack of patrilineal succession.

“Even when there have been empresses regnant prior to now, the throne has all the time been handed down the male line,” he explains. “These in Japan who’re eager to protect Japanese custom … fear that if ladies are allowed on the throne then sooner or later sooner or later the nation might nicely finish with an emperor (or empress) whose mom is of imperial blood however whose father shouldn’t be. This, for them, can be an insupportable rupture with the previous.”

(With reporting from CNN’s Emiko Jozuka, Selina Wang and Junko Ogura in Tokyo and Nectar Gan in Hong Kong.)


With Mako’s departure, Japan’s imperial household continues to shrink. There’s presently just one younger successor to the throne, Mako’s brother, the 15-year-old Prince Hisahito.

Here is a have a look at how survival of the world’s oldest dynasty rests on the shoulders of a schoolboy.


We talked about earlier that life as an Empress in Japan’s Imperial Household is not a simple trip. Going again into the CNN archives, we discovered this 2019 piece from worldwide correspondent Will Ripley exploring the powerful expertise confronted by Japan’s Empress Michiko. Have a watch:

“I apologize for any burden I could have precipitated due to this marriage … Kei is an irreplaceable existence to me. To us, marriage means to guard our hearts — it was a worthwhile resolution for us.”

Former Japanese Princess Mako

At a press occasion on Tuesday afternoon, Mako appeared alongside her husband in entrance of a particular group of reporters. The pair apologized for any hassle brought on by their marriage whereas expressing gratitude to supporters.

Thanks for studying our particular version on Princess Mako’s wedding ceremony. Tell us what you considered the ship and whether or not that is one thing you’d prefer to see extra of sooner or later by emailing Common programming of Royal Information returns this Friday!

–Max & Lauren

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