In a touching love story, Princess Ayako of Japan married commoner Kei Moriya on Monday at a traditional ceremony at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, to become the latest female royal to leave the imperial family.
Ayako, 28, the third daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin, Prince Takamado, tied the knot with Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old worker of shipping company, Nippon Yusen.
The princess wore a many-layered court kimono and moulded hairdo typical of the imperial aristocracy, while the groom wore a black tuxedo with grey trousers for the ceremony at the shrine dedicated to the spirit of her great-grandfather, Emperor Meiji.
“I’m filled with joy to get married and to have so many people visit us at the Meiji Shrine and congratulate us,’’ Princess Ayako told a news conference after the private Shinto wedding ceremony.
Japanese royals have been given freedom to marry whom they choose for at least three generations.
Emperor Akihito was the first crown prince to marry a commoner, who became Empress Michiko – after the pair met on a tennis court.
Princess Ayako had to renounce her imperial status because she married a commoner, as is the practice for women under Japan’s succession law, and she will now become Ayako Moriya after signing marriage papers later on Monday.
The princesses’ ‘leap of love’ comes as Japan’s royal family is experiencing a shortage of males – who retain the right to inherit the throne.
Crown Prince Naruhito, who takes over after Akihito abdicates in 2019, his brother, Fumihito, his nephew, Hisahito and Masahito, the octogenarian brother of the current emperor, are the only four male heirs to the throne left.
The shrinking royal family has raised concerns and calls for changes in the Imperial Succession Law, but conservatives are deeply resistant to allowing females to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.