Japan’s Imperial Household has denied speculation that the postponement of Princess Mako’s wedding was due to tabloid reports of a row over money in her fiancé’s family.
The Emperor’s granddaughter was due to marry her college sweetheart Kei Komuro, a 26-year-old paralegal, in a high-profile wedding in November after announcing their engagement last year.
However, the nuptials were postponed this week with the Imperial Household Agency citing “a series of important ceremonies next year”, in apparent reference to the planned abdication of the Emperor and the handover of power to his son.
The abrupt announcement came as something of a surprise in Japan, less than a month before a traditional betrothal ceremony was scheduled to formalise the engagement and pave the way to the wedding.
However, a series of weekly magazine reports focusing on Mr Komuro and his family would most likely have created an uncomfortable backdrop to wedding preparations in recent weeks.
The reports focus on a row surrounding claims that Mr Komuro’s mother – with whom he still lives in Yokohama – allegedly failed to repay her former partner more than 4 million yen (£26,200) which she apparently borrowed to cover her son’s university fees.
However, Takaharu Kachi, an Imperial Household Agency official, told reporters that the decision to postpone the couple’s engagement was not related in any way to tabloid reports.
Meanwhile Princess Mako, 26, also issued a statement saying she believed the couple had “rushed things” and apologised for their “immaturity”: “”I wish to think about marriage more deeply and concretely and give sufficient time to prepare our marriage and for after the marriage.”
She added: “It is because of our immaturity and we just regret it. We feel extremely sorry for causing great trouble and further burden to those who have willingly supported us.”
Princess Mako faces giving up her royal status and becoming a commoner when she marries her fiancé, whom she met while the pair were both studying at the International Christian College in Tokyo.
The recent flurry of tabloid stories relating to Mr Komura’s family appeared in several weekly magazines known as shukanshi but were not reported at the time by mainstream national newspapers or broadcasters.
The shukanshi tend to report with more freedom – and controversy – than mainstream media in Japan as they operate outside the confines of the “press club system” which strictly regulates membership and access to news within official organisations.
Referring to the mainstream press and the recent tabloid scandals, Professor Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo, told the Telegraph: “By British standards, he’s been treated rather mildly by the media. The Imperial Household Agency no doubt frowns upon such reporting and everybody knows it. There’s some taboo journalism goes on here – everyone knows that they wouldn’t want certain things printed, so they don’t print it even if there’s no explicit instruction not to.”
He added: “Getting married to a commoner is something of a big deal here. The commoners that they marry tend to be blue blood commoners. This is a common commoner. I imagine in some circles in the Imperial Household Agency and the government, this would not be their top choice. But she has gone with her heart.”
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