The Story of Japan’s Princess Mako, Who Chose Love Over the Crown and Lost Everything

10 months ago

In fairy tales and movies, a girl marries a prince and becomes a princess. In real life, things are much more complicated. Sometimes a princess has to give up her title and $1 million to marry the person she loves. That’s exactly what Princess Mako did, and now she lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her husband and works at a museum.

Mako with her parents and sister

Mako, the eldest daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, was born in 1991 and displayed a strong sense of responsibility toward her imperial duties from a young age. She was always willing to engage in charitable work and even volunteered in secret to help victims of a tsunami and earthquake to avoid unnecessary attention.

While Mako initially followed the family’s tradition by attending the prestigious Gakushuin school, where her parents and grandfather also studied, she broke the custom when it came to choosing a university. Princess Mako entered Tokyo’s International Christian University, where she pursued studies in art and cultural heritage, and she also spent a year at the University of Edinburgh.


Mako met Komuro at a student meeting in 2012. Komuro, a fellow student who had plans to study abroad, soon began dating Mako. Their relationship faced challenges due to Mako’s studies in the UK and Komuro’s studies in the US, leading to a year of separation with communication, primarily over the internet. Komuro, coming from a modest background, had to withstand media attacks accusing him of dating the princess for financial gain.

Reflecting on their initial meeting, Mako mentioned being initially attracted to Komuro’s radiant smile, describing it as sunshine. She also shared how their relationship started with friendly conversations and dating even before their studies abroad began. From the beginning, they both understood that the person they were dating was someone they could potentially marry.

Komuro also expressed his emotions for Mako, noting that their relationship began before the study abroad programs. Despite the long period of separation, they continued to stay in touch, deepening their connection. Upon their return, they confirmed their mutual feelings, and Komuro proposed to Mako in December 2013, saying, “Let’s marry in the future.” He recalled the proposal taking place somewhere in the city after a meal, while they were walking together.


After Komuro’s proposal, Mako introduced him to her parents, including her father, Prince Akishino, and the rest of the imperial family. Mako was grateful that her family accepted her fiancé. However, the couple faced another challenge — the condemnation of society. The strict conservative public was displeased with the princess’s independent spirit and her choice to fall in love with a commoner.

Mako was deeply saddened by the criticism and negativity she received on social media, leading to her developing post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite this, she found the strength to respond to the attacks with kindness, expressing her hope for a society where people can protect their hearts with warm support from others.

KYDPL KYODO / Associated Press / East News

Despite these hardships, Princess Mako and Komuro finally got married in 2021. Mako spoke about the significance of their marriage as a necessary choice to live true to their hearts, emphasizing their irreplaceability to each other in both happy and challenging times. Komuro echoed her sentiments, expressing his desire to build a warm and loving family while providing support to Mako.


Notably, Mako became the first woman in the Japanese imperial family who declined the traditional payment of about $1.3 million given to a female member of the imperial family after their departure from the household. By doing so, Mako aimed to reduce the level of disapproval from the public. Nevertheless, on their wedding day, a protest took place with placards stating, “Protect our household” and “The imperial family is the soul of Japan.”

After their wedding, the couple arrived in New York, where Kei had been working as a law firm clerk. They currently rent a one-bedroom apartment near Central Park and wear casual clothing.

6 months after arriving in New York City, the former princess landed a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is working without pay and is assisting the museum’s Asian art department. Mako received high praise from a former Met curator, who said that she’s a diligent and qualified employee and spends a lot of her time in the library.


Sometimes love requires sacrifice. But for the sake of true feelings and happiness, people are willing to compromise their principles and give up money and other advantages. Here’s another inspiring love story for you to read.

Preview photo credit Kyodo / EAST NEWS, Jean Catuffe / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images


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