• Kyodo

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Princess Mako, a niece of Emperor Naruhito, and her boyfriend, Kei Komuro, will marry by the end of the year and may start a new life in the United States, but without holding the related ritual ceremonies in a rare decision, a government source said Wednesday.

Amid public unease about their marriage due to a money dispute between Komuro’s mother and her former fiance, the princess will likely decline a lump-sum payment of up to about ¥150 million ($1.36 million) usually given to female imperial family members upon their departure from the household, the source said.

Under the current rules, female members of the imperial lose their royal status upon marrying a commoner. The marriage of the princess and Komuro, both 29, has been postponed for over two years due to a dispute over ¥4 million that the former fiance claims Komuro’s mother owes him. The sum includes money spent on Komuro’s educational expenses.

If the princess marries Komuro without traditional ceremonies, she would be the first female imperial family member to skip them in postwar Japan.

The rites are an official engagement ceremony called Nosai no Gi, in which the families of the betrothed exchange gifts, and a Choken no Gi ceremony to officially meet with the emperor and empress before marriage.

The Imperial Household Agency will consider whether it is possible under current rules not to offer the lump-sum payment, which would be financed by taxpayers’ money, in accordance with the princess’s request.

Komuro currently lives in the United States, having graduated from Fordham University’s law school in New York State with a Juris Doctor degree in May and taken the state bar examination in July. The result of the exam will be announced by mid-December and he is expected to secure a job at a law firm in the U.S.

Crown Prince Akishino, the emperor’s younger brother, has said he approves of his eldest daughter’s marriage to Komuro but suggested it would have to be welcomed by a skeptical public.

“I mean, I approve of them getting married. The Constitution says marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes. If that is what they really want, then I think that is something I need to respect as a parent,” the crown prince said last November at a news conference held for his 55th birthday.

In April, Komuro issued a statement seeking to correct what he called misunderstandings among the public about his mother’s financial status, and said his wish to marry the princess has not changed.

Princess Mako, who said last November the marriage was a “necessary choice” for the couple, indicated her hope that the statement to address the monetary dispute would help gain more public understanding of his stance.

“I would appreciate if people could understand there were various circumstances (behind the dispute) by reading the document,” the princess was quoted as saying by an official of the Imperial Household Agency.

Shortly after releasing the statement, Komuro offered to make a payment to his mother’s former fiance in an effort to settle the money dispute.

The former fiance also expressed his desire to enter negotiations, saying the planned marriage and the dispute were separate issues. But there has been no progress in efforts to settle the case since then.

The couple’s marriage may influence Japan’s ongoing debate to address its shrinking number of imperial family members, as the government is considering allowing female members to retain their royal status even after marrying commoners.

Princess Mako’s brother Prince Hisahito, 14, who is second in line to the imperial throne, is the only heir of his generation as the Imperial House Law states that only males with male lineal descent from emperors can ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Komuro and Princess Mako, Crown Prince Akishino’s eldest daughter, met in 2012 as students at International Christian University in Tokyo. They were unofficially engaged in September 2017.

Komuro, who previously worked at a Tokyo law firm as a paralegal, started studying at the New York law school in August 2018 after his planned marriage with the princess was abruptly delayed following reports of the financial dispute.

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