The announcement Tuesday that Princess Noriko is engaged to marry a commoner was greeted warmly around the nation, but it has also fueled concern that the Imperial family is losing another member and will have fewer royals to carry out public duties.
“Since my childhood I have been taught that I will lose the Imperial family status after my marriage,” Princess Noriko told a news conference Tuesday.
She will marry the eldest son of the chief priest of Izumo-Taisha this fall, the Imperial Household Agency said.
Some experts say the marriage offers an opportunity for the nation to decide what the royal family should look like in future.
The Imperial Household Law states that a female member of the Imperial family loses her royal status upon marriage to a commoner and experts say if the family shrinks, its remaining members will have to bear a greater number of duties.
Currently the Imperial family includes Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and 20 others, of whom eight, including Princess Noriko, are female and unmarried.
In addition to attending official functions such as banquets at the Imperial Palace and Imperial garden parties, adult members have their own diaries of public duties.
For example, Princess Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, who graduated from Tokyo’s International Christian University in March, is being asked to shoulder a growing number of official duties and in September will serve as honorary chair of the International Ceramics Festival in Gifu Prefecture.
Meanwhile, Princess Akiko, the elder daughter of the late Prince Tomohito of Mikasa, former president of the Japan-Turkey Society, has begun to take on her father’s role in promoting ties between Japan and Turkey, while continuing her own research on Japanese culture and traditions.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Princess Akiko was appointed as president of the Japan-Turkey Society last June. She has also made numerous overseas visits.
Princess Noriko’s marriage to a commoner will be the first since former Princess Nori, now Sayako Kuroda, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, married an official from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2005.
Following her marriage, Kuroda withdrew from her numerous official duties, fueling concern about who would take them on.
In 2012, the central government convened a panel of experts on the issue and came up with the idea of allowing female Imperial family members to create a branch of the royal family and thereby retain their Imperial status. The panel recommended such family branches be set up only by “Naishinno,” which refers to princesses with close blood ties to the Emperor, such as his daughters and his sons’ daughters.
But that debate stopped there, and resulted in no changes.
Princess Noriko is not a Naishinno, as she is the second daughter of the late Prince Takamado, a nephew of Hirohito, the late Showa Emperor, and neither are her two sisters — who are single.
Nevertheless, There are substantial expectations on the royal family to carry out public duties, leading some experts to worry that unless Japan sets out a clear vision for its Imperial Household, its members may become too burned out to marry.