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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Japan princess to wed commoner, forcing her to quit royal family

The shrinking royal population, which mirrors the broader ageing of Japanese society, has raised concerns that the prince may also be the last

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan. Shizuo Kambayashi / Reuters
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, speaks to media with her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan. Shizuo Kambayashi / Reuters

Princess Mako, the eldest granddaughter of Japanese Emperor Akihito, will wed a former classmate, the Imperial Household said on Sunday, confirming a marriage that will further deplete the royal family since she must become a commoner.

The announcement was aired by public broadcaster NHK.

Mako is one of only four royal grandchildren. The other three are her younger sister, Kako, her brother, Hisahito, and Crown Prince Naruhito's daughter, Aiko.

The shrinking royal population, which mirrors the broader ageing of Japanese society, has raised concerns that the prince may also be the last.

Ten-year-old Hisahito is one of four heirs to the throne behind Akihito's two middle-aged sons, whose wives are in their early 50s, and Akihito's octogenarian brother, Masahito.

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The engagement to Kei Komuro, who works in a Tokyo law office, comes after Japanese lawmakers in June approved a bill to allow Akihito to step down, the first abdication by a Japanese monarch since 1817.

A year ago, the first emperor not to be considered divine said in a rare public appearance that he feared age would make it hard to fulfil his duties. The 83-year-old has had heart surgery and been treated for prostate cancer.

But the legislation, which only applies to Akihito and not future emperors, makes no reference to the controversial topics of whether to revise a males-only succession law or to allow women to stay in the imperial family after marriage.

Princess Mako (R), the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro (L), smile during a press conference to announce their engagement at the Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo on September 3, 2017.
Emperor Akihito's eldest granddaughter Princess Mako and her fiancé -- a commoner -- announced their engagement on September 3, which will cost the princess her royal status in a move that highlights the male-dominated nature of Japan's monarchy.
 / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Shizuo Kambayashi
Princess Mako, right, and her fiancee Kei Komuro. Shizuo Kambayashi / AFP

Conservatives fear doing so would be a first step to letting females inherit the throne.

Mako and Komuro graduated from International Christian University. She has a master's degree from the University of Leicester and has been working as a researcher at a museum. Her fiance once served as a "Prince of the Sea" to promote tourism near Tokyo, according to media reports. (Additional reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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