Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Princess Hisako and the late Prince Takamado, Emperor Akihito’s cousin, will retain honorary positions at two organizations even after leaving the Imperial family following her marriage to a commoner next week, the Imperial Household Agency and the groups’ officials said Friday.
According to the agency, no other female members of the Imperial family have continued to serve in such positions, which are typically passed on to other royals after they become commoners.
The move comes amid concerns over the shrinking number of Imperial family members performing public duties, as women lose their royal status after marrying commoners under the Imperial House Law.
The agency believes the practice is unlikely to pose problems as the Canada-Japan Society and the Japan Sea Cadet Federation, where the princess serves as honorary president, do not restrict title holders to Imperial family members.
An official denied the agency played an active role in the decision, saying it was based on an agreement between the princess and the two organizations.
But the continued service by a former Imperial family member could help address the shortage of members performing official duties and possibly influence the activities of other women in the Imperial family.
In addition to Princess Ayako, 28, who will marry Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old employee at shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K., on Monday, Princess Mako, 27, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, is also expected to marry a commoner.
Last year, the agency announced the planned engagement between Princess Mako and her longtime boyfriend, Kei Komuro, 27, although their formal engagement and wedding were subsequently postponed until 2020 due to a “lack of preparation.”
Following the marriages of Princess Ayako and Princess Mako, the number of Imperial family members will fall to 17, 12 of whom are females.
In an interview in June, Princess Hisako said it would be “possible” that her daughter would continue to serve as the honorary president of some organizations “given the need” for her to do so.
Princess Ayako took over the two honorary titles from her mother in January and February this year, taking into account her experience of having studied in Canada and the need for the younger generation to perform such duties.
As honorary patron of the Canada-Japan Society, Princess Ayako held talks with the chair of the organization in June at her residence. She also visited the city of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, in September to observe drills and had exchanges with members of the Japan Sea Cadet Federation.