Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin, is set to marry commoner Kei Moriya today, relinquishing her royal status.
Nearly a year after their first encounter, the 28-year-old princess and the 32-year-old employee of shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K. will tie the knot in a traditional ceremony at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine.
The couple first met last December through Princess Ayako’s mother Princess Hisako, a long acquaintance of Moriya’s parents, who had also met with Moriya the month prior at a photo exhibition of a nonprofit organization supporting children in developing countries.
Princess Hisako, the widow of Prince Takamado who passed away in 2002, had hoped to spark her daughter’s interest in international welfare activities through introducing her to Moriya, who is a board member of the nonprofit group Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi (Children Without Borders), or KnK.
During a July press conference after the official announcement of their informal engagement, Princess Ayako said she hit it off with Moriya from the beginning and enjoyed talking with him so much that she did not feel like it was their first meeting.
The two soon began courting and Moriya proposed to the princess earlier this year after the couple dined together at a restaurant. The princess said at the press conference that she accepted his offer in April, attracted to Moriya’s “kind, smart and decisive” personality.
Describing Princess Ayako as a “bright and positive person,” Moriya said he came to hope that he would be able to share his life with the princess who is “warm and kind in interacting with anyone.”
Princess Ayako, a research fellow at Josai International University’s Faculty of Social Work Studies, said her marriage to Moriya, a graduate of Keio University, has come about largely thanks to an opportunity given by her mother and Moriya’s late mother Kimie, who was KnK executive board member prior to her death in 2015.
Princess Hisako had known Moriya’s father Osamu for around 40 years after she became acquainted with him during her studies in the U.K. Additionally, when the couple’s engagement was announced in June, KnK Chair Saeko Terada shared that Princess Hisako has attended the group’s events almost every year since 2007 thanks to the bond built by Kimie. Moriya’s mother had been involved with KnK since its launch in 1997.
Describing Moriya as a “pleasant and wonderful young man,” Terada said in a statement, “I hope he will continue his mother’s wishes and contribute to providing educational support to children in developing countries.” Moriya became a board member in March.
Following the wedding, Princess Ayako will no longer be part of the Imperial family — Imperial House Law stipulates that women lose their royal title after marrying a commoner. Her cousin, Princess Mako, will also follow that path.
Last year, the Imperial Household Agency announced the informal engagement between Emperor Akihito’s eldest grandchild Princess Mako and Kei Komuro, a paralegal, student, commoner and her long-time boyfriend, although the couple has subsequently postponed their wedding to 2020 due to “lack of preparation.”
After Princess Ayako and Princess Mako marry, the number of Imperial family members will fall to 17 and that of female members to 12, raising possible concerns about stable succession and ways to share the burdens of public duties among remaining members.
To address the shrinking number of Imperial family members, a resolution attached to the Emperor’s abdication law enacted last June calls on the government to start deliberating succession issues, including an option to allow a princess to establish her own branch within the Imperial family after marrying a commoner.
However, such deliberations have yet to begin. 84-year-old Emperor Akihito is set to retire on April 30, 2019, based on his desire to step down due to concerns about his age and failing health.
Members of the Imperial family, including her mother and Princess Tsuguko, the eldest sister of the bride, will attend Princess Ayako’s wedding ceremony.
The next day, a banquet will be held at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, and will be attended by Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, as well as the heads of the three branches of the government.
Princess Ayako will receive about ¥107 million (roughly $950,000) from the state to maintain her lifestyle after her marriage based on the law on Imperial household finance.
Noriko Senge, one of Princess Ayako’s older sisters, received the same amount when she married Kunimaro Senge, a senior priest of Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Shimane Prefecture, in 2014.
Sayako Kuroda, the daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, received about ¥150 million when she married Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005.