After a year of traditional preparations and rites, Princess Nori married Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee Yoshiki Kuroda on Tuesday morning as Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko observed their only daughter’s last moment as a member of the royal family.
Through the wedding with Kuroda, 40, a commoner, the 36-year-old princess must relinquish her royal title as stipulated by the Imperial House Law. It was the first wedding in 45 years for a reigning emperor’s daughter.
The last time a reigning emperor’s daughter married and become a commoner was in 1960, when Princess Takako, the fifth daughter of the late Emperor Showa, wed a banker.
The Kurodas were set to start their life together later Tuesday at a condominium they have rented near the palace before they purchase a new condo, possibly in the spring. The government will provide the couple with a one-time payment of 152.5 million yen.
About 30 people from both families attended the Shinto-style wedding at the Imperial Hotel, which has no relation to the royal family. Chief Priest Michihisa Kitashirakawa of Ise Jingu Shrine presided over the ceremony.
Wearing in white silk dress with pearl necklace, Princess Nori left the palace in the morning, greeted by cheering aides and thousands of well-wishers along the streets, many shouting “Banzai!”
“I’m really impressed,” Ranko Shibuya, 63, said after waving at the princess from the sidewalk. Wiping away tears, she said she felt for Empress Michiko, who was saying goodbye to her only daughter.
Minutes later, her black limousine arrived at the legendary Tokyo hotel, which has hosted many distinguished guests.
The princess chose the simple dress for the ceremony instead of the 12-layered “juni hitoe” wedding kimono traditionally worn by female royal family members. Her groom wore a morning suit.
That seemed to reflect the couple’s wishes to make the ceremony a relatively low-key event. They did not have go-betweens and decided not to have a cake-cutting ceremony.
Guests from the Imperial family included Crown Princess Masako, 41, a Harvard and Oxford-educated former diplomat who is recuperating from a stress-related illness caused by her duties.
The bride and groom held a news conference at the hotel at 2 p.m. There, Sayako expressed her intention to live a new life.
“Holding memories of the days with my family in my mind, I am going to face a new life as a member of the Kuroda family,” she said.
Kuroda thanked everyone who has supported the couple. “I appreciate that the ceremony was held smoothly,” he said, adding he and his wife want to create “a peaceful family” where they can feel relaxed.
The reception that followed the news conference was attended by 130 guests, including Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, Kuroda’s superior.
Kuroda, a banker-turned-public servant, is a longtime friend of Prince Akishino, one of the princess’ two older brothers. While the couple’s first meeting dates back to their childhood, they were reacquainted as adults with the prince’s help.
The couple reportedly kept in touch via e-mail and mobile phone, prompting some people around them to dub their engagement a 21st century love story.
The princess, also a former part-time bird researcher, is the last of the Emperor’s three children to marry.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he hopes the couple “will get along well and make a bright family,” while Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference, “I feel full of new hope and wish for their continued happiness.”
About 5,800 people lined up to offer their best wishes to the Emperor and Empress in the visitor’s book placed in front of the Imperial Household Agency building, agency officials said.
Mitsuharu Ichihara, 72, said he brought his 5-year-old granddaughter, Kana, to the event so she could remember “a page of history” and sign her name in the book.
Not everyone was particularly interested in the wedding.
“It is difficult to feel that the Imperial system is closely linked to our lives, though my mother’s generation may feel differently,” said Kanako Hatsukmi, 25, a company employee.