Japan’s former princess Mako has departed for the US with her new “commoner” husband, Kei Komuro, after leaving the royal family.
There was minimal pageantry as the college sweethearts, who wed last month, left from Tokyo airport on Sunday morning.
They will rent an apartment in New York where Mr Komuro works at a law firm.
Under Japanese law, female imperial family members forfeit their status upon marriage to a “commoner”.
The pair were heavily guarded by police and airport security as they strolled through the departure terminal. They passed about 100 journalists who were there to witness them leave, but did not respond to questions.
Their move to New York had long been rumoured and Mako, who took her husband’s name when they got married, is reportedly expected to find a job in the city.
However, the couple faced a set-back to their plans last month when Japanese media reported that Mr Komuro had failed the New York state bar exam. Prospective lawyers have to pass the tests to practice law in the state.
Mr Komuro is currently working as a legal clerk.
The move to the US has drawn comparisons with British royals Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, earning the newlyweds the nickname “Japan’s Harry and Meghan”.
The couple faced significant opposition when they first announced their engagement four years ago and their relationship has been subject to tabloid gossip and controversy over claims that Mr Komuro’s mother had reportedly taken a loan from her ex-fiancé and not paid him back.
PROFILE: The woman who gave up royal status to marry
The coverage led to the then-princess developing post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Imperial Household.
When the couple married last month they skipped the usual rites of a royal wedding and turned down a payment offered to royal women upon their departure from the family.
Former princess Mako, who is the niece of Emperor Naruhito, is the first female member of the royal family to decline both.
Japan’s Princess Mako finally marries commoner boyfriend Kei Komuro
The couple spoke at a press conference on Tuesday
Japan’s Princess Mako has married her college sweetheart Kei Komuro – thus losing her royal status.
Under Japanese law, female imperial family members forfeit their status upon marriage to a “commoner” although male members do not.
She also skipped the usual rites of a royal wedding and turned down a payment offered to royal females upon their departure from the family.
She is the first female member of the royal family to decline both.
The woman who gave up royal status to marry
The couple are expected to move to the US – where Mr Komuro works as a lawyer – after marriage. The move has drawn inevitable comparisons with British royals Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, earning the newlyweds the nickname “Japan’s Harry and Meghan”.
Like Ms Markle, Mr Komuro has come under intense scrutiny since his relationship with Ms Mako was announced. He was most recently criticised for sporting a ponytail when he returned to Japan.
Some tabloid newspapers and social media users felt his hairstyle – seen as unconventional in Japan – was unbecoming of someone set to marry a princess.
There was also a protest on Tuesday against the couple’s marriage.
‘[He] is irreplaceable’
In a press conference on Tuesday, Ms Mako said she apologised for any trouble brought to people by her marriage.
“I am very sorry for the inconvenience caused and I am grateful for those… who have continued to support me,” she said, according to an NHK report. “For me, Kei is irreplaceable – marriage was a necessary choice for us.”
Mr Komuro added that he loved Ms Mako and wanted to spend his life with her.
“I love Mako. We only get one life, and I want us to spend it with the one we love,” said Mr Komuro according to an AFP report. “I feel very sad that Mako has been in a bad condition, mentally and physically, because of the false accusations.”
Princess Mako left her Tokyo residence at around 10:00 local time on Tuesday (01:00 GMT) to register her marriage, bowing several times to her parents, Crown Prince Fumihito and Crown Princess Kiko. She also hugged her younger sister before she left, news outlet Kyodo reported.
There has been excessive media coverage around the couple over the years, which has caused the princess to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the Imperial Household Agency (IHA) had earlier said.
Her relationship has been met with controversy in the country.
On Tuesday, people were pictured protesting against the marriage in a Japanese park.
Many slogans appeared to bring up financial issues around Mr Komuro’s family – specifically his mother.
The former princess got engaged to Mr Komuro in 2017 and the two were set to wed the following year. But the marriage was delayed following claims Mr Komuro’s mother had financial problems – she had reportedly taken a loan from her ex-fiancé and not paid him back.
The palace denied the delay was linked to this, though Crown Prince Fumihito said it was important for the money issues to be dealt with before the couple got married.
According to the BBC’s Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, the real reason for the animosity towards Mr Komuro seems to be among some conservative Japanese who believe he is not a worthy partner for a niece of the emperor.
Mr Komuro – who has received a job offer from a top New York law firm – comes from humble origins, and local tabloids have spent years digging dirt on his family, including the allegations against his mother.