• Kyodo


Congratulatory messages poured in after the engagement of Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, to her boyfriend from university days was announced Sunday.

But the celebratory mood was soured by North Korea’s sixth nuclear test the same day, with Imperial Household Agency officials and the couple’s acquaintances expressing displeasure that the detonation coincided with the auspicious occasion.

“I convey congratulations from the bottom of my heart. This is truly happy news that cheers up the citizens of Japan,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said of the princess’s engagement to Kei Komuro.

The prime minister originally planned to speak before the media about the engagement but chose to issue a statement instead, given the nuclear test.

A senior household agency official said, “It is unforgivable whenever a nuclear test is conducted, but why today? I’m awfully sorry it put a damper on the mood.”

On a shopping street near Komuro’s home in Yokohama, plum wine was handed out for free to passersby to celebrate the couple’s engagement.

“I’m happy that our town produced a star,” said Suehiro Yuura, 70, who lives in the neighborhood.

Nobuyasu Sato, who was Komuro’s homeroom teacher during his fifth and sixth years in the elementary school affiliated with Kunitachi College of Music, said Komuro was a “tender-hearted child” and that his caring attitude toward the princess at the news conference showed his nature has not changed.

“This is such a happy occasion so I wish that did not happen the same day,” said Sato, deputy head of Komuro’s alma mater, after watching the news conference live on television.

People who know the princess, the eldest granddaughter of the Emperor, via her official duties also congratulated the couple.

Tatsuya Sasaki, 63, whose house was washed away by the floods in Iwaizumi, Iwate Prefecture, in August 2016, said he remembers the princess being a friendly person who played with children at an evacuation center last October.

“I believe the two are going to build a wonderful family. I want her to visit Iwaizumi with her family next time,” Sasaki said.

Koji Watanabe, 75-year-old vice chairman of the Japan Tennis Association, for which the princess serves as honorary patron, said he vividly remembers the sincerity with which she performed her official duties, such as watching tennis games for several hours, and listening to the briefings given by association officials in a respectful manner.

Shoko Kamano, 28, who helped promote the beaches of Shonan, Kanagawa Prefecture, with Komuro in 2010, said she was very surprised to learn he was marrying the princess but “truly happy” to hear the news.

“I hope he will build a happy and pleasant family,” she said.

Komuro was dubbed “Prince of the Sea” for the tourism campaign while Kamano acted as “Queen of the Sea.”

She said Komuro was a reliable and caring person with a wonderful smile.

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