Japan’s Princess Ayako Marries for Love and Forfeits Her Royal Status

japanese princessJapanese Princess Ayako (R), the third daughter of the late Prince Takamado, and her fiance Kei Moriya attend a press conference to announce their engagement at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo on July 2, 2018. (Photo by Koji Sasahara / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KOJI SASAHARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan’s Princess Ayako and her groom, Kei Moriya, have found true love at last. After exchanging vows at the historic Meiji Shrine, the former princess is now no longer considered a part of the royal family, having married for love rather than for prestige or family lineage.

Japan has long been ruled by a system in which female members of the royal family who choose to marry someone without royal or aristocratic family ties must forfeit their titles, while male members who marry commoners face no such consequences.

This imperial law is what makes 28-year-old Princess Ayako’s decision to marry Moriya all the more inspiring to Japan’s modern women: by marrying 32-year-old Moriya, an employee of the shipping company Nippon Yusen KK, the princess is defying tradition in the name of love. (She will receive a lump sum of $950,000 from the Japanese government for living expenses.)

But on Monday, none of those logistical details could weigh down the excitement and buoyancy of the couple’s celebration.

“I am awed by how blessed I am,” Ayako said, according to CNN, noting that she has been taught from a young age to support the emperor and empress, no matter what. “I will leave the imperial family today, but I will remain unchanged in my support for his majesty and her majesty.”

Moriya told reporters that he thought Ayako looked “beautiful” on their big day.

The day began with the couple entering the shrine together, where they were greeted by close family members and friends as they made their way to the ceremony hall. Ayako wore a light yellow-colored uchiki kimono embroidered with pink flowers and green leaves paired with a deep purple hakama, or wide-legged pleated trousers that fell to her ankles. Moriya wore a western-style black morning coat, gray pin-striped trousers and a silk hat that previously belonged to Ayako’s late father, Prince Takamodo.

Before the ceremony itself, however, Ayako changed into a more formal Shinto-style robe, which included a red kouchiki, or a small cloak with long, wide sleeves, and a long divided brown skirt caled a naga-bakama.

During the ceremony, Ayako and Moriya performed several rituals to mark their Shinto-style wedding, including exchanging nuptial sake cups and presenting a sacred Tamagushi branch as an offering. They also exchanged marriage vows and rings. Only their closest family members were in attendance.

After final prayers, the couple reemerged from the shrine to the cheers of the crowd. Said Moriya to reporters, “I would like to support her firmly and, hand in hand, build a happy family with lots of laughter.”

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