Time to catch up with the imperial family. What have we missed? In terms of activity, not much, thanks to COVID-19: Former Emperor Akihito, who turned 87 Wednesday, has been busy researching goby fish in the palace lab; Empress Masako, whose 57th birthday was Dec. 9, has been making remote visits to hospitals to show support for staff; her daughter, Princess Aiko, who turned 19 on Dec. 1 — has been attending online lectures like other college students.

As for Princess Mako, her marriage to Kei Komuro remains on hold, with Japan’s media hanging on every word uttered by any member of the imperial family on the matter. The princess herself said last month that the marriage was a “necessary choice” for the couple, whatever that means. Her father, Crown Prince Akishino, said he “approves” of the union, while reiterating that Komuro’s mother must first resolve an ongoing financial dispute.

Crown Prince approves of Princess Mako’s marriage | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN
Crown prince approves of Princess Mako’s marriage | NIPPON TV NEWS 24 JAPAN

Princess Mako also acknowledged in her statement that some people were “negative” about the proposed match with Komuro. But why might this be the case? Could it be the money issue, or is it about something else — class, perhaps? As Philip Brasor notes in Media Mix, while most domestic media seem to oppose the marriage, it doesn’t necessarily follow that a majority of the public feels the same.

Of course, as soon as the princess finally does marry a commoner, that’s it — she’s no longer a princess at all, officially at least. This is a worry for the government, as the imperial family is effectively being whittled away as its daughters marry outside nobility. But a partial solution is being floated: A new honorific title for female family members who lose their imperial status after marriage that will enable them to keep working for the clan, sources say.