Princess Mako of Japan, granddaughter of the current emperor, is reportedly finalizing an engagement to marry a commoner—a graduate student working at a law firm, who once appeared in a tourism campaign as the “Prince of the Sea.” However, “Prince of the Sea” is not an official title and so she will be legally required to give up her status as a royal.
That’s via the Guardian. The lucky man is 25-year-old Kei Komuro, whom Princess Mako has been dating since college. The Associated Press says that Komuro “can ski, play the violin and cook,” and “was once tapped as ‘Prince of the Sea’ to promote tourism to the beaches of Shonan in Kanagawa prefecture.” No clue what is happening in this video, but it appears to feature Komuro in his oceanic regalia.
The news comes as a reminder to Japan that their royal family is running out of royals. The Japan Times notes that once Mako bows out, the head count drops to 18—13 of them female and therefore subject to the boot if they also opt for commoners. Consequently, they are barreling down the tracks towards a succession problem in the not-too-distant future. The New York Times explains:
Under the Imperial Household Law, which governs the succession of emperors in Japan’s monarchy, the world’s oldest, women are not allowed to reign on the throne. And women born into the royal family must officially leave it once they marry.
So when the princess, a 25-year-old doctoral student at International Christian University in Tokyo, marries Kei Komuro, 25, an aspiring lawyer, she will become a commoner, narrowing the prospective pool of heirs to the throne.
As Japan considers whether to reform the imperial law to accommodate the current emperor’s request to abdicate before he dies, many Japanese have suggested it is time to revise the 70-year-old law to allow women to ascend to the throne and to allow royal daughters to bear heirs.
“It is urgent that the system should be reformed so that female members can remain in the imperial family. Otherwise, we will lose more and more members from the imperial family,” professor emeritus of legal history at Kyoto Sangyo University Isao Tokoro told the Times. The move has wide public support but is opposed by conservatives, the irony being that women have only been barred from the succession since 1947, when the country’s postwar Constitution demoted the Emperor to a largely symbolic figure.
As it stands, even if she stuck around, Mako’s children wouldn’t be in line for the throne. Currently, once the emperor is out, the throne goes to 57-year-old Prince Naruhito. But he doesn’t have any sons, so then it goes to his brother, 51-year-old Prince Akishino. That’s Princess Mako’s father. It’ll then pass to her younger brother, 10-year-old Prince Hisahito. If he doesn’t have any sons, it’s the end of the line. Good way for traditionalists to play themselves.