Skip to main contentSkip to footer

How Princess Mako's love story rocked Japan's royal family

Japanese princess forfeited her royal status and became an ordinary citizen

japan royal family princess mako
Phoebe Tatham
Phoebe TathamContent Writer
Share this:

Ever since Prince Harry released his bombshell memoir Sparethe British public has been picking apart the royal's eye-opening book.

From detailing his bitter feud with Prince William, to alleging that his stepmother Queen Consort Camilla leaked private conversations, it's safe to say that the royal's landmark autobiography laid bare the complexities of life behind Palace walls.

And yet the British royal family certainly aren't alone when it comes to family drama… In Denmark, Queen Margrethe II caused quite the stir when she made the bold decision to strip her grandchildren of their royal titles while further afield in Spain, Juan Carlos I and his son King Felipe's turbulent relationship has dominated headlines in recent years.

EURO ROYALS: Norway's Princess Martha opens up on ex-husband death

But did you know that the Imperial House of Japan (Japan's royal family) similarly everyone was talking about their family back in 2017 when Princess Mako opted to give up her royal status?

Watch the video to find out more about the Japanese royals and the scandals they have faced.

WATCH: Everything you need to know about the Imperial Family

Keep scrolling to discover more about the princess' love story and how it rocked the Imperial House…

MORE: Japan's Princess Mako and new husband leave Tokyo to rent one-bedroom New York flat

MORE: Japan's Emperor and Empress celebrate 28th wedding anniversary – but they almost didn't marry

Who is Princess Mako?

Princess Mako, now known as Mako Komuro, is the eldest child of the current emperor's younger brother, Prince Akishino, and his wife, Princess Kiko. The former royal was born on 23 October 1991 at Tokyo's Imperial Household Agency Hospital.

Princess Mako© Photo: Getty Images

Princess Mako in full dress

In keeping with royal tradition, the youngster attended the elite Gakushuin school before later leaving the institution to attend university.

The 31-year-old studied Art and Cultural Heritage at Tokyo's International Christian University and spent a year abroad at the University of Edinburgh. She subsequently graduated with a master's degree in Art Museum and Gallery Studies at the University of Leicester.

Why is Princess Mako a former princess?

In 2017, Princess Mako announced her engagement to childhood sweetheart, Kei Komuro. The lovebirds – who first crossed paths in 2012 at a study-abroad event – intended to exchange vows in 2018.

Princess Mako with Kei Komuro © Photo: Getty Images

Princess Mako is married to Kei Komuro

Upon tying the knot in October 2022, Princess Mako forfeited her royal status and became an ordinary citizen. On the day of their wedding, Mako skipped the usual rites associated with a royal wedding and turned down a traditional payment of about $1.3m (£940,000) given to a female member of the imperial family upon their departure from the household.

At the time, she said: "We will be starting a new life. I am sure we will encounter difficulties along the way. But just as we have until now, I want to continue joining forces [with Kei] and walking together side by side."

Princess Mako© Photo: Getty Images

Mako gave up her royal title

She went on to say: "Our loyalty to each other is thanks to our devotion to one another and thanks to the presence of all those who supported us.

"There are many who understand the difficulty of living while protecting our hearts. I hope that we can create a society where we can all live and support each other's feelings."

How did the Imperial House react?

Princess Mako's decision to wed Kei sparked a strong reaction within the Japanese royal family and beyond. Two months after publicly announcing their engagement, revelations started to emerge regarding Kei's mother's alleged money dispute with her former fiancé.

Indeed, the public backlash was so strong that Mako's father decided to withhold his approval of their marriage. Fast forward to November 2020, however, and Mako's father Crown Prince Akishino eventually gave his daughter the green light she needed to marry her beau.

prince akishino© Photo: Getty Images

Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko

At the time, he said: "I approve of them getting married… The constitution says that marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes. I believe I, as a parent, should respect their intentions if marriage is what they truly want."

But, he added, "I think it's not the case that many people approve and are happy about it." Referencing Kei's mother's financial dispute, Crown Prince Akishino went on to say that Kei's family needed to make a "visible" response to his mother's reported financial woes.

Emperor Naruhito© Photo: Getty Images

Naruhito is the current emperor of Japan

As a result of the widespread criticism, Princess Mako and Kei ended up postponing their wedding for more than four years before eventually exchanging vows.

What is the Imperial House law of Japan?

While Mako and Kei managed to get their fairytale ending, a new sort of 'drama' is currently plaguing the Imperial Household. The family she leaves behind is shrinking at an alarming rate due to Japan's succession laws.

The Japanese royal family © Photo: Getty Images

The Japanese Imperial House in 2011

Under Japan’s succession laws, no female member of the imperial family can ascend to the Chrysanthemum throne. The ancient law represents a huge obstacle to the Japanese royal family, seven of whom are below 40, and only one of whom is a woman.

As it stands, Japan's 126th monarch – Emperor Naruhito – has two male heirs to the throne: his brother, Crown Prince Fumihito, 55, and his 14-year-old nephew, Prince Hisahito.

princess toshi© Photo: Getty Images

Princess Toshi

The emperor's only child – 19-year-old Princess Toshi – is not in line to the throne. Much like her cousin, Mako, if she were to marry a commoner, she'd cease to be a member of the Imperial Household.

Is Japan's royal family witnessing a constitutional crisis? Only time will tell.

Make sure you never miss a ROYAL story! Sign up to The Royal Explainer newsletter to receive your weekly dose of royal features and other exclusive content straight to your inbox.

More Royalty

See more