From The Straits Times    |

Photo: akoredeonline/Instagram 

Finding true love is never easy. When it comes your way, sometimes we have to take risks and make sacrifices and that’s exactly what Princess Ayako from Japan is doing.  

Princess Ayako has renounced her royal title in order to marry a commoner who works for a shipping company, named Kei Moriya. The two tied the knot on Monday (Oct 29, 2018) at the historic Meiji Shrine in Toyko, marking Princess Ayako’s official exit from the royal world.

While many people on social media are commending Princess Ayako for following her heart, some have called into question why anyone would applaud a woman for leaving all status and monetary assets associated with being Princess for love.

Under Japan’s current Imperial Household Law, women who marry into the imperial family become members of the family, but those who marry commoners, like Princess Ayako, must leave.

She is the second princess to leave the family in the last two years – the other was her cousin Princess Mako. Princess Ayako’s older sister, Princess Noriko, also left the royal family in 2014 when she married a commoner.

One twitter user (@StephenLep) even went as far to say that “she’s giving up being a Princess to become a housewife.”

But to take that perspective is even less feminist than the criticism it makes. Ahead, are some of the ways this bold step taken by Princess Ayako is empowering to women.


Princess Ayako will continue to retain patronage over two institutions even after marriage


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Princess Ayako has worked her entire career to further causes important to her. According to an article by the CNN, the 28-year-old was taught from a young age that being born into the imperial family meant her duty was to support the emperor and empress.

Even at her wedding, the Princess maintained her commitment to the royal family: “I will leave the imperial family today, but I will remain unchanged in my support for his majesty,” she said to reporters at her wedding.

It was recently announced that Princess Ayako will continue to retain patronage over two institutions even after marriage.

Princess Ayako took over the honorary titles of two entities from her mother, Princess Hisako, earlier this year, taking into account the former’s experience of studying in Canada and the need for the younger generation to perform such duties.

As an honorary patron of the Canada-Japan Society, Princess Ayako held talks with the chair of the organisation in June of this year at her residence. In September, she also visited the Aomori Prefecture to observe drills and had exchanges with members of the Japan Sea Cadet Federation.

This move can be seen as a harbinger of change in the royal protocol. Amidst concerns about a diminishing royal line (the royal household accounts only 17 members with 11 women among them) performing public duties as women lose their royal status after marrying a commoner under the Imperial House Law, changes have been wrought to the protocol.  

Allowing Princess Ayako to retain patronage over the two institutions is a significant change that will affect the Chrysanthemum Throne in the near future.


Her decision to forsake her royal title sparked a national conversation about the role women play in Japan’s monarchy


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Her marriage has also prompted and reignited debate about the role women play in Japan’s monarchy and whether laws that mandate the male-only order of succession and force women who marry commoners to leave the family should be changed.


Her brave decision will show other women who have sacrificed their careers for their loved ones that they are not alone


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In calling to question Princess Ayako’s decision to give up her title for love what we’re really saying is that she shouldn’t have allowed her heart or her partner to change her path in life. This isn’t a situation that only affects royals, it’s not different from the many women who give up or change jobs, for instance, to be geographically closer to their significant other and the career goals of others.

Ignoring the sacrifice that it can be (or dismissing this move as being anti-feminist) isn’t fair to the difficult choices many women make for both their careers and those of their partners.

Rather than questioning the validity of choice of Princess Ayako’s choice in romantic partner, what we should do is give her the agency in her own choices.

Also, we should remember that the pair did meet through Princess Ayako’s mum who introduced them to inspire Ayako to advocate for human rights. We are certain that the newly-married Princess will harness her new status to do more for her community.

Major props and the best of luck to her!