Japan's Princess Mako married a commoner, and she left Japan's royal family. This marriage has raised questions about how Japanese modern-day royalty should behave and gender equality in the oldest continuously functioning monarchy in the world.
Concerns that a controversial marriage might profit from taxpayer money led to the Princess declining the $1.3 million payment to women who must leave Japan's royal families after they marry a commoner.
Princess Mako was renamed Mako Komuro after her husband Kei Komuro. Both are thirty years old. The former princess is one of the two oldest daughters of Crown Prince Fumihito and the niece to Emperor Naruhito.
Kei Komuro, who is a New York lawyer, returned to Japan in September. He passed the state bar exam, and obtained a Fordham University Law School law degree. They plan to move to New York.
After they had registered their marriage, the couple gave prepared remarks and distributed written responses to five questions that were submitted by media in advance.
According to the Imperial Household Agency, the format was determined at the last moment due in part Mako's shock when he learned that some questions contained false information being presented truthfully.
Mako thanked supporters and reacted to critics by saying: "I felt fearful and pained that incorrect information was taken for truth, and these baseless stories were spread. She didn't say what the stories were but it is about a financial dispute of $35,000 between Kei Komuro's mother, and her ex-fiance.
Takeshi Hara, an expert in Japan's imperial system from the Open University of Japan, commented that the presser gave the impression that the couple were only insisting on their validity and didn't answer any questions that were not convenient for them.
Japan's royals are still influenced by romance.
According to a recent survey by Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, 38% support marriage and 35% oppose it.
According to Ken Ruoff, a Portland State University historian, those in the 35% "might do better to read their constitution which clearly gives all Japanese the right to choose their spouse."
Akihito and Empress Michiko were the first postwar emperors. Their new role was to show concern for the well-being and woes of the common people. Hara states that they did this in two ways.
He said, "One was to pray that the people would be happy and peaceful." "The second was to go to the real places where people live, to stand alongside them and to talk to them."
Mako's decision not to be in the limelight and give up any public position, he says, might have offended some citizens.
He says that Akihito, Michiko and others "created something like a standard for royal family members' behavior, which became a burden on the next generation."
Only 3 heirs are allowed to the throne
Japan's royal family now has 17 members, down from 67 in 1945 and just three heirs. Japan is one of few monarchies that ban women from inheriting its throne. However, it has had eight female rulers throughout its history. Japan's emperors can trace their heritage back to Amaterasu, the Shinto Goddess and Sun.
Conservatives, including politicians from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, have opposed proposals to amend the law to allow women to ascend to the throne.
The role of the emperor is symbolic, but Portland State's Ken Ruoff points out that it's an important symbol. "It says a lot about Japan's patriarchy that the national symbol is only for males.
Many have made comparisons between Mako's departure and the "Megxit", which has been triggered by the departure of the royal family's Prince Harry. Ruoff believes that there is a commonality in the fact that many royals, even those not on the throne, may see royalty as a less attractive deal.
He says that it doesn't seem worthwhile to "some of the lesser princes" to endure the restrictions on their lives and the little return they receive.