Japan’s Princess Ayako married her groom Kei Moriya on Monday in a ceremony at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, and in so doing officially abdicated her position as a member of the country’s royal family. Under Japan’s imperial law, women members of the royal family must forfeit their titles, status, and government stipend if they do not marry someone of royal or aristocratic status — a requirement that is conspicuously not applied to male members of the royal line.
Ayako, 28, the youngest child of Princess Hisako and the late Prince Takamodo, cousin of Emperor Akihito, and Moriya, 32, an employee of shipping company Nippon Yusen KK, were celebrated by a roaring crowd as they entered the Meiji Shrine — which is dedicated to the deified souls of Ayako’s great-great grandfather Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The ceremony itself was private and performed in Shinto-style — although the couple did also reportedly exchange marriage vows and rings.
“I am awed by how blessed I am,” Ayako said. “I will leave the imperial family today, but I will remain unchanged in my support for his majesty and her majesty.”
Ayako’s marriage — and the forthcoming marriage of her sister, Princess Mako, also to a commoner — is set to make an already dwindling royal family that much smaller. Emperor Akihito has announced that he will abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne in April to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito. As imperial law dictates that only men can inherit the throne, Prince Naruhito’s only son, 12-year-old Prince Hisahito, could potentially be left with the sole responsibility of continuing the royal line. While many have advocated for a change to imperial law to allow for a woman to inherit the throne — and to permit women who marry outside the family to retain their royalty — as a means of sustaining the royal family, Japanese officials have repeatedly rejected such proposals as being in violation of tradition.
Watch video from the royal wedding below.
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