The controversial marriage of Princess Mako and her university sweetheart Kei Komuro highlights the struggle that members of the imperial family have in balancing their public and private lives, in what some observers have called a "warning sign" for maintaining a monarchy in a modern democracy.

The 30-year-old niece of Emperor Naruhito went ahead with the marriage in an unprecedented manner by skipping the usual traditional rites and turning down a lump-sum payment of up to about ¥150 million ($1.3 million) in taxpayer money, amid public unease over media reports on a financial dispute involving Komuro's mother.

The Komuro family has become fodder for Japanese tabloid magazines and TV talk shows, leaving many people unconvinced that the Komuros are fit to become relatives of the imperial family, including Princess Mako's younger brother, Prince Hisahito, 15, who is seen as a future emperor.