explainer

A princess just surrendered her royal title so she could marry the man she loves.

It reads like a storyline from a Hollywood movie.

A princess falls in love with a commoner, and then gives up her royal title to marry the man she loves.

But it’s something that happened in the real world just two days ago.

Japan’s Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin, wed businessman Kei Moriya in a ritual-filled ceremony at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine.

She was forced to immediately give up her title and royal status.

Japan’s Imperial Law dictates that female royals who choose to marry outside of their aristocratic network will no longer be considered as part of the royal family.

But it was a sacrifice the princess was willing to make for true love.

The couple first met in December last year when they were introduced by Princess Ayako’s mother Princess Hisako, at a photo exhibition for a nonprofit organisation which supports children in developing countries.

Princess Hisako has been friends with Moriya’s mother for years. She hoped introducing the pair might spark her daughter’s interest in international welfare, as Moriya is a board member of the nonprofit group Kokkyo Naki Kodomotachi (Children Without Borders).

Instead, they fell in love.

“I met Mr Moriya for the first time in December last year,” Princess Ayako said at a press conference following the announcement of their engagement earlier this year.

“I remember that our conversation got so lively that it didn’t feel like we had just met and that I had so much fun that I forgot about time.”

Moriya said he was immediately attracted to Ayako’s gentle spirit.

“And I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her,” he said.

Just 30 friends and family members attended the private wedding ceremony, where the couple exchanged rings and shared a cup of sake.

“I am awed by how blessed I am,” Ayako told reporters after the ceremony. “I am filled with happiness.”

“I will leave the imperial family today, but I will remain unchanged in my support for his majesty and her majesty.”

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