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Princess Ayako and her husband Kei Moriya at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.
Kyodo via Reuters
Princess Ayako and her husband Kei Moriya at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan.
I DO

Japan’s princess Ayako is giving up her title for love

By Ephrat Livni

Fairy tales just got an update in Japan. The classic story of a woman who dreams that one day her prince will come and make her a princess has taken a more modern turn.

Princess Ayako has found her prince, a 32-year-old shipping company employee named Kei Moriya, and she’s giving up her title to marry her true love. The royal, 28, on Oct. 29 wed Moriya in a traditional Shinto ceremony at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, an event that resulted from their mothers introducing them to one another.

Though the ceremony was private, with about 30 people in attendance for the exchange of vows and rings, the happy couple spoke to reporters afterward. “I’m filled with joy to get married and to have so many people visit us at the Meiji Shrine and congratulate us,” the bride said.

The groom, for his part, promised to help the princess adjust to her new life, saying, “I want us to work together, hand in hand, to create a family filled with smiles.” He explained that he was attracted to the princess’s gentle spirit from the start. ”And I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,” Moriya said.

While money can’t buy love or happiness, the princess will not be a pauper. According to the Japan Times (paywall), she will receive a lump sum payment of 106.75 million yen ($1.3 million) to maintain her high standard of living after leaving the royal family. But she also won’t be loafing around while enjoying the payout—Princess Ayako graduated from Chiba Prefecture’s Josai International University with a master’s degree in 2016 and is currently working as a research fellow at the school’s Faculty of Social Work Studies.

According to Japanese imperial succession law, a woman who marries outside the royal lineage must give up her title. This ensures that no “commoner” can become emperor. But Ayako will retain two honorary positions she holds at the Canada-Japan Society and the Japan Sea Cadet, posts which are normally reserved solely for the imperial family. She said she intends to maintain ties to the royal family and will help Emperor Akihito, the 125th member of the world’s oldest reigning dynasty.

The emperor is no stranger to fairy tale love stories himself. He met his wife, Michiko Shoda, on a tennis court and had to seek the approval of the Imperial Household Council to marry her, as Shoda was not a royal and was Catholic. They married in 1959, breaking with the 2,600 year tradition of imperial marriages in the royal family.

In 2017, the Japanese government announced that Akihito will abdicate the throne on April 30, 2019, handing over the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito. Akihito has been emperor since 1989.