Japan’s Princess Ayako, 27, becomes the second young royal in two years to announce she is marrying a COMMONER and will renounce her status to wed shipping worker, 32
- Princess Ayako has announced she is to marry shipping worker Kei Moriya, 32
- Ayako, 27, is daughter of the late Prince Takamodo, a cousin of Emperor Akihito
- Once she exchanges vows she will be expected to renounce her royal status
- Comes after her cousin Princess Mako – Emperor Akihito’s oldest grandchild – announced engagement to her college classmate
Japan’s Princess Ayako has announced she is to marry a commoner in a move that will mean giving up her royal status.
The 27-year-old will marry Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old employee of shipping firm NYK Line, at Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu shrine on October 29, according to Japan’s Imperial Household Agency.
Princess Ayako, daughter of the late Prince Takamodo, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, becomes the second Japanese princess in under two years to announce she is marrying a commoner.
In September last year, Princess Mako, Emperor Akihito’s oldest grandchild, and her college classmate Kei Komuro announced their engagement.
Japan’s Princess Ayako (pictured) has announced she is to marry a commoner in a move that will mean giving up her royal status
Princess Mako (right) is engaged to Kei Komuro (left). But in Japan women are not allowed to succeed the throne, meaning that when the pair, both 25, tie the knot, she will lose her status
Japan’s Emperor Akihito (front left) and Empress Michiko (front right) mingle with members of the royal family during a spring garden party at the Akasaka Palace imperial garden in Tokyo on April 20, 2017
Female members of the Imperial family have no claim to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
As with all women in her family, the princesses will lose their royal status upon marriage to commoners – a law that does not apply to male members of the family.
Ayako met Moriya, who has a master’s degree in social welfare and now works for the shipping firm NYK Line, under a year ago having been introduced to him by her mother Princess Takamodo in December, the Imperial Household revealed.
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According to CNN, she will have to leave the royal family after exchanging vows – but will receive a bonus payment in the region of a million US dollars.
Unlike her cousin Mako, Ayako is not a direct descendent of Emperor Akihito, who is planning to abdicate next year.
Mako announced plans to engage one for the Imperial Household Agency to reveal in February that the wedding, originally set for November, would be delayed until 2020, citing lack of time for preparations
Japanese monarchy: A man’s world
Female members of the Imperial family have no claim to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
As with all women in her family, Princess Mako will lose her royal status upon marriage to a commoner. This law does not apply to male royals.
But few of Emperor Akihito’s children and grandchildren are male, which means there is a shortage of heirs to the throne.
Akihito will be succeeded by his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito.
When Naruhito, who has a daughter but no sons, ascends the throne, his younger brother Akishino will be next in line, followed by Hisahito, Akishino’s 10-year-old son.
Emperor Akihito (left, with Empress Michiko at the centenary reception of the foundation of the America-Japan Society in Tokyo in April this year) has won plaudits for seizing upon the constitutionally-prescribed role of national symbol
Akihito’s three other grandchildren are all women so after Hisahito, the only person left in the line of succession is Princess Mako’s younger brother.
After that there are no more eligible males, meaning the centuries-old succession would be broken if the young heirs do not have any sons of their own.
So far the monarchy has an unbroken 2,600-year-long line of male succession.
Those who are concerned about the future of the royal family want to allow women to succeed the throne and others to keep their royal status so they can keep performing public duties – but a government panel on the emperor’s abdication avoided the divisive issue.
Traditionalists, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, strenuously oppose such changes, even though Japan has occasionally been ruled by female sovereigns in past centuries.
In September last year, Princess Mako (left), Emperor Akihito’s oldest grandchild, and her college classmate Kei Komuro (right) announced their engagement
When Naruhito, who has a daughter but no sons, ascends the throne, his younger brother Akishino will be next in line, followed by Hisahito, Akishino’s 10-year-old son. But if Hisahito doesn’t have a son there will be a succession crisis. Pictured: Emperor Akihito’s family tree
Princess Mako (above) introduced her suitor to her father, Prince Akishino, second in line to the throne, and her mother, Princess Kiko, as someone she wished to ‘share her future with’
All grown up: Princess Mako (then four), father Prince Akishino, sister Princess Kako (then one) and mother Princess Kiko pose for photographs in Kanagawa, Japan in January 1996
At the time, the media quoted Mako as saying in a statement that the couple decided to postpone the wedding until after the emperor’s abdication.
The sudden announcement triggered speculation that the postponement may be linked to tabloid bashing on Komuro’s family background.
The status of the emperor is sensitive in Japan – a legacy of the massive Pacific war waged in the name of Akihito’s father Hirohito, who died in 1989.
Akihito has keenly embraced the more modern role as a symbol of the state which was imposed on the royal family after World War II ended. Previous emperors including Hirohito had been treated as semi-divine.
But the reigning emperor shocked the country in 2016 when he signalled his desire to end his public duties, citing his age and health problems.
Akihito will be the first emperor to retire in more than two centuries in a royal family that traces its lineage back more than 2,600 years.
Japan’s crown prince Naruhito will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne next May
The Japanese monarchy: a history
The Japanese imperial family is believed to be the world’s oldest, with a myth-filled history that dates back more than 2,600 years.
Akihito is the 125th emperor since Emperor Jimmu, said to be a descendant of the legendary sun goddess Amaterasu.
Emperors have played a crucial role in the country’s native Shinto religion, conducting various annual rites and prayers for the prosperity of the nation.
The greatest threat to the imperial family’s long history came with Japan’s defeat in World War II.
Some in the Allied camp wanted to end the monarchy in whose name Japanese armies marched through the Asia-Pacific. But US General Douglas MacArthur, who led the post-war occupation, called for it to be retained, though its power was greatly curbed.
The current US-imposed constitution took away the emperor’s semidivine status and turned him into a national “symbol” as part of a radical democratisation.
Unlike in some countries with royal families, there is no republican movement in Japan and the emperor and royal family have won the admiration of the vast majority of the country.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko journey to sites of natural disasters to console victims, most notably after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Akihito also repeatedly warned that Japan must not downplay its 20th-century militarism and actions in World War II — remarks seen as a rebuke to the nationalist stance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and likeminded conservatives.
The family operates under hereditary, male-only succession rules, although there have been eight empresses in past centuries.
Upon the abdication of Akihito, his oldest son Crown Prince Naruhito will assume the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Naruhito’s younger brother, Prince Akishino, is next in line. The only other male heir, 10-year-old Prince Hisahito, Akishino’s son, is third in line to the throne.
If Hisahito only has daughters, the family is likely to face a succession crisis unless laws are changed.
The scarcity of young men in the family has prompted talk of alternatives, including letting women ascend the throne, though traditionalists abhor the idea.
Some have suggested that female members of the family who marry commoners should stop losing their royal status — as will happen to Akihito’s granddaughter Princess Mako when she weds her college sweetheart.
Others advocate expanding the family to include distant relatives.
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