Japanese have rejoiced over the news of Princess Mako’s impending engagement to a former fellow student, while some expressed hope that her marriage to a commoner will help bring the Imperial family closer to the public.
“It’s very joyous. It makes me happy as well,” said a 26-year-old company worker who was a classmate of the princess for two years while they were attending Gakushuin Girls’ Junior and Senior High School.
The 25-year-old grandchild of Emperor Akihito was active and friendly to others, playing volleyball at lunch nearly every day and sometimes going out to a movie with her classmates, the company worker said. Last October, the princess chatted with her about their student days during a reunion.
The news that the princess will become engaged to 25-year-old Kei Komuro also quickly spread at International Christian University in Tokyo, the couple’s alma mater.
Erika Mita, a 21-year-old junior, said she felt a sense of closeness to the couple because they were both graduates of the university. Daiki Endo, an 18-year-old freshman, said he believed that they were able to develop a deeper relationship because the princess’ boyfriend treated her normally.
Nobuo Kuroyanagi, head of the Japan Tennis Association, where Princess Mako serves as honorary patron, also welcomed the news. The princess took over the post from her father Prince Akishino a year and a half ago.
The 75-year-old said the princess has often attended tennis matches and that he remembered her watching them with keen interest. “When Princess Mako shows up at Ariake Coliseum (in Tokyo) where tennis matches are held, I can feel a warm atmosphere developing there,” he said.
In Sapporo, Mika Ito, a 42-year-old part-time worker, said she had the impression that Princess Mako had a “calm demeanor” and that she was “quite sure that she will make a happy family.”
As the princess will become a commoner when she marries under the Imperial House Law, Ito said, “I hope the princess will build bridges between the public and the Imperial family.”
A 50-year-old company worker in the city of Kawasaki was delighted to hear the news, but he expressed regret that the princess will lose her royal status upon her marriage even though she has been engaging enthusiastically in her official duties.
A woman in her 70s who lives near the residence of the princess and her family in Tokyo speculated that Princess Mako has chosen a dependable person for her fiance because she herself must be a dependable person. “I wish for their happiness,” she said.
A 26-year-old postgraduate student in Tokyo said Imperial household matters were something “distant” to her. But she hoped that the princess will “continue to do what she wants to do even after marriage.”
The news seemed to have surprised some of Komuro’s acquaintances. A childhood friend said Komuro was “a fine man with an attractive smile” but she never heard him talking about romance.
A 24-year-old kindergarten teacher who once worked at a French restaurant with Komuro when they were university students described Komuro’s character as “gentle.”
“I’ve seen him walking with his mother every day to a nearby station. I’m sure he will be a good father if he has children. I want to say congratulations when I meet him,” Miki Kamitaka said.
A 27-year-old company worker in the city of Osaka said Komuro must have had an “extraordinary determination” in deciding to get married to an Imperial family member.
“I wish the two will build a family that reflects our time,” he said.