Japanese Princess Mako set to marry ‘Prince of the Sea’

Updated 8:28 PM EDT, Wed May 17, 2017
Japanese Princess Mako is getting engaged with a commoner, Mr. Kei Komuro.
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Story highlights

Japan's imperial law covers marriage of royalty to a commoner

Princess Mako's aunt also gave up her title after marriage

(CNN) —  

Japan’s Princess Mako is giving up her royal status – all in the name of love.

The groom-to-be is a prince himself … of sorts.

The Imperial Household tells CNN plans are underway for the 25-year-old princess, granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, to become engaged to Kei Komuro, also 25, a law firm worker and graduate student who once starred in a tourism campaign as “Prince of the Sea.”

The couple met five years ago as students at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reported.

It was while in university that Komuro played the “Prince of the Sea” in a beach tourism campaign for the city of Fujisawa, south of Tokyo.

Kei Komuro, center, is interviewed by reporters in Tokyo Wednesday, May 17 2017.
Fumine Tsutabayashi/AP
Kei Komuro, center, is interviewed by reporters in Tokyo Wednesday, May 17 2017.

Shrinking imperial family

Japan’s centuries-old imperial law requires a princess to leave the imperial family upon marriage to a commoner.

The last to do so was Princess Mako’s aunt, Sayako, the only daughter of Emperor Akhito, when she married town planner Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005.

The engagement won’t become official until a ceremonial exchange of gifts, but the news has reignited concerns about the shrinking size of the imperial family, which currently has 19 members, 14 of whom are female.

Imperial law only allows the throne to be passed to male heirs, of which there are only three: Crown Prince Naruhito, his younger brother Crown Prince Akishino, and Akishino’s son, Prince Hisahito.

In addition to Princess Mako, there are six other unmarried princesses – who will also lose their royal status if they marry commoners. That has raised the possibility that the imperial family will not have enough members to continue carrying out its public duties.

Future of the monarchy

Last summer, 83-year-old Emperor Akihito voiced concerns that his advanced age may begin to affect his ability to rule.

Akihito said that while he felt he was in good health he was worried about the increasing burden of the role.

“When I consider that my fitness level is gradually declining, I am worried that it may become difficult for me to carry out my duties as the symbol of the State with my whole being as I have done until now,” he said.