|After bidding a ceremonial farewell to her family and her royal title at the weekend, the former Princess Sayako of Japan tied the knot with her 40-year-old urban planner fiancé, Yoshiki Kuroda, on Tuesday.
Dressed in a simple Western-style wedding gown, accessorised with a string of pearls, the emperor's only daughter walked a few paces behind her intended as the couple approached the specially built Shinto altar in a top Tokyo hotel.
There they exchanged their vows and shared a ceremonial glass of sake in front of Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, their son Crown Prince Naruhito, and his wife Masako. It was a rare appearance for the crown princess, who has been away from the public eye for almost two years suffering from a stress-related illness.
After the ceremony, the former princess and her new husband gave a five-minute press conference, before the bride changed into a kimono once worn by her mother and joined the 150 assembled guests for a champagne reception.
"I was very glad that the emperor and empress think that this new life is not a total change but an extension of my life so far," Sayako told the assembled press, adding: "I would like to start a new life as a member of the Kuroda family by learning various things."
In attending the wedding breakfast Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko broke with tradition, and there are other signs that change may be in the air for the Imperial house. With no male heir born to the royal family since 1965, Japan is studying the possibility of allowing women to assume the throne and of letting princesses keep their royal title after marriage. Such a move would not affect Sayako's new status, however.
In line with current custom, the nuptials signify a final break with the royal family for the 36-year-old former bird researcher, who now embarks upon a new life as a middle class housewife in a rented home in the Japanese capital.
The youngest of the Emperor's children and the last to wed, Sayako has admitted she has a lot of learn about her new role. She has apparently been preparing for it by learning how to drive and undertaking an intensive course on basic domestic responsibilities.