Japan’s Princess Ayako has become the second Japanese princess in two years to announce she’s marrying a commoner, a move that will force her to renounce her royal status.
Japan’s Imperial Household Agency announced Tuesday that the third, and youngest, daughter of the late Prince Takamodo, cousin of Emperor Akihito, is set to marry Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old employee of shipping firm NYK Line.
The two met less than a year ago, will officially mark their engagement on August 12, and wed at Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu shrine on October 29.
Princess Ayako, who has a master’s degree in social welfare, was originally introduced to Moriya by her mother, Princess Takamodo, last December, according to the Imperial Household.
Princess Takamodo knew Kei’s parents from her outreach work at a local NGO, and made the introduction in the hope that her daughter would be inspired by global welfare activities. However, the pair discovered that they have a lot more in common than a passion for global welfare. They both enjoy skiing, books and travel.
Under Japanese imperial law, the princess will be required to leave the family once she exchanges vows with Moriya. However, she will receive a bonus payment expected to be around a million dollars.
Ayako is not the first princess in her generation who plans to leave the royal family. Last May, her second cousin and eldest grandchild to the Emperor, Princess Mako, announced plans to marry paralegal Kei Komoro. However, the couple postponed their marriage this February, stating that they were not yet ready for marriage.
Ayako is not a direct descendent of Emperor Akihito, who plans to abdicate in 2019, so doesn’t attract the same level of attention as Princess Mako. However, her engagement will raise questions over the future of the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy.
Despite debate to introduce legislation to allow women to ascend the throne, the birth of Prince Hisahito in 2006 – the first male heir born to the Imperial family in 40 years – put an end to that discussion.
If Princesses Mako and Ayako both marry commoners, the number of imperial family members will drop to 17, increasing the burden of royal duties on the remaining members.
A resolution added to the Emperor’s abdication bill last June called for the government to begin deliberating succession issues, including the option of princesses establishing new branches of the family after they marry a commoner, allowing new members to take on the duties of the imperial family.
The princess’ engagement could to accelerate calls for that deliberation.