It is the time to say goodbye.

With a series of visits, Princess Mako is leaving the Imperial family these days.

On Tuesday, Mako will marry commoner Kei Komuro in order to start a new life with him in the United States.

There has never been such an escape to freedom in the Japanese imperial family.

Patrick Welter

Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.

  • Follow I follow

There are no ceremonial and solemn farewells for Mako, who turned 30 on Saturday. The traditional nudes that usually accompany the wedding of a Japanese princess have been canceled. “I never thought that the imperial family would send them away like this,” says the writer Mariko Hayashi in the weekly magazine Bunshun.

What happened? The drama at the Kaiserhof began in 2017 with an actually happy event. Princess Mako announced along with her informal fiancé Kei Komuro that they wanted to get married in the coming year. The peers who had met while studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo smiled shyly and happily into the cameras. But only a few months later the wedding was postponed. Magazines had reported alleged financial irregularities in the groom's family. The former fiancé of Komuro's mother asked for back at least four million yen (31,000 euros) that he had contributed to the livelihood and education of the foster son. Crown Prince Fumihito, Mako's father, was not amused. He asked for clarification before he could agree to the wedding.

Family of the people

It wasn't just concern for the daughter's well-being that drove Fumihito.

The Crown Prince emphasized that the consent of the population for the wedding should be given.

Fumihito was concerned with the reputation of the imperial family, and Mako had to submit.

The informal fiancé left for New York, where he studied law and now works in a law firm.

On Monday he saw Mako for the first time in more than three years.

The opinions of the Japanese people about the wedding are still divided today.

In a survey by the Mainichi daily newspaper, 38 percent congratulated the princess.

35 percent have reservations.

26 percent are not interested at all.

Such numbers are uncomfortable for the imperial family.

Before World War II, the Tenno was the head of state, and the imperial system relied on people looking up at the emperor in awe.

After the war, the American victors degraded the emperor in the constitution to a mere symbol of the state.

The imperial family was looking for a new role and found it when the then Crown Prince Akihito - a novelty - married the commoner Michiko in 1957.

She opened the Crown Prince family to the public and presented the image of an almost completely normal Japanese family.

Instead of awe, esteem and affection shaped the relationship between the population and the emperor from now on.

Akihito ascended the chrysanthemum throne in 1989 and became the nation's comforter and emperor of the people after the natural disasters that occurred in Japan.

Japanese scapegoat

That was the new foundation of the imperial house. Traditionalists see it at risk from the discomfort of large sections of the population about Mako's future husband. Political scientists like Takashi Mikuriya say that the idea of ​​the imperial system, which is supported by the people, has completely collapsed. Perhaps Mako lacks the awareness that she is a public person and only then a private person, says the scientist in Bunshun. From this perspective, it is Mako who is not doing her duty.

A Japanese peculiarity, however, also allows a different view of things. Since the succession to the throne is reserved for the prince alone, every princess leaves the imperial household upon marriage. She becomes a commoner and no longer represents Japan. “It is therefore absurd for the population to judge Mako's future partner,” says Kenneth Ruoff, a historian at Portland State University who specializes in the imperial family. In this perspective, it is the public and the media that are asking too much of Mako.

They have really built up pressure in recent years.

The magazines and tabloids not only piqued the financial affairs of Komuro's mother and her former fiancé, but also of Komuro's father's suicide.

The princess herself and her family have been criticized for having her parents study Mako and her younger sister Kako at the liberal International Christian University in Tokyo.

Some commentators already blame the princess with her behavior if her brother, the 15-year-old Hisahito, after his father number two in the line of succession, should not find a wife in the future.

Costly independence

Over all this, Mako developed mental disorders, announced the imperial court office earlier this month - probably as a signal to the media not to overdo it with the wedding.

Despite all resistance, the young princess Mako ultimately prevailed with great self-confidence with her wedding wish.

As a farewell gesture to the population, she waives an advance payment of around 150 million yen (1.2 million euros), which she is actually entitled to with the departure from the imperial family, in order to be able to live adequately.

The princess lets her independence cost a lot.