Japan's Princess Ayako marries commoner, loses royal status

Princess Ayako is the latest female royal to leave Japan's shrinking Imperial Household.

    Japanese royals have had the freedom to marry whomever they choose for at least three generations [Kyodo via Reuters]
    Japanese royals have had the freedom to marry whomever they choose for at least three generations [Kyodo via Reuters]

    Princess Ayako of Japan, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito's cousin, has married Kei Moriya, a shipping firm employee, in a traditional ceremony at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine. 

    With the marriage, held on Monday, the 28-year-old becomes the latest female royal to leave the Imperial Household under a Japanese law that strips women of their royal status if they marry a commoner.

    "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.

    The princess wore a red court kimono and the moulded hairdo typical of the country's imperial aristocracy to tie the knot with Moriya, a 32-year-old employee of Nippon Yusen, one of the world's oldest shipping companies, who wore a morning suit.

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    Moriya said he hoped to help Ayako adjust to everyday life, telling reporters: "I want us to work together, hand in hand, to create a family filled with smiles".

    The pair met through their mothers, who are friends.

    After signing her marriage papers, Princess Ayako became Ayako Moriya under Japan's Imperial Succession Law.

    She bid farewell to the emperor last week but said on Monday that she hoped to continue to help the emperor and empress as a former member of the royal family.

    Succession controversy

    In 2019, Akihito will become the first Japanese emperor to abdicate since 1817 [Koji Sasahara/AP Photo]

    Ayako's departure leaves just 18 members in Japan's Imperial Household.

    The shrinking royal family has raised concerns and provoked calls for changes in the Imperial Succession Law, which also prohibits royal women from ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

    Japanese royals have had the freedom to marry whomever they choose for at least three generations.

    The country's current emperor, Emperor Akihito, was the first crown prince to marry a commoner, after meeting Michiko Shoda, now Empress Michiko, on a tennis court. 

    Emperor Akihito is set to abdicate next year after the Japanese parliament passed legislation in 2017 to allow him to step down as a monarch.

    The 85-year old will hand over power to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, on May 1. However, the family is experiencing a shortage of males, with just four male heirs to the throne now. 

    Despite concerns, conservatives in the deeply traditional country are resistant to allowing women to inherit the Chrysanthemum Throne.

    Princess Mako, Akihito's eldest granddaughter, is expected to follow in Ayako's footsteps in 2020 when she is set to wed her college sweetheart, Kei Komuro, who works at a law firm. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies