Princess's engagement may reignite Japanese succession debate
Japanese Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, will wed a former college classmate, Japanese media reported, heating up debate on the ever-shrinking royal family, since she must become a commoner after marriage.
Japan's cabinet is expected to approve a bill tomorrow to allow Akihito (83) to step down, the first abdication by a Japanese emperor in nearly two centuries, after he said he feared age would make it hard to fulfil his duties.
But the law will make no reference to the controversial topics of whether to revise a males-only succession law or to allow women to stay in the imperial family after marriage, a move conservatives fear would be a first step to letting females inherit the throne.
Mako's unofficial fiancé, Kei Komuro, appeared before the media yesterday outside the Tokyo law office where he works, a day after the news of their engagement broke.
"Now is not the time for me to comment, but I want to speak at the right time," Komuro (25) told reporters.
There are only four heirs to the throne - Akihito's two middle-aged sons, whose wives are in their early 50s, Akihito's octogenarian brother, and Prince Hisahito, the 10-year-old son of Akihito's younger son.
Of Akihito's four grandchildren, the other three are female - Mako (25), her sister Kako, and Crown Prince Naruhito's daughter, Aiko. The shrinking royal population has raised concerns that the youngest prince may also be the last.
Mako - who, like her groom-to-be, graduated from International Christian University - has a master's degree from the University of Leicester and works as a researcher at a museum.