Bad debts and Korean blood: Japanese tabloids in a frenzy after Princess Mako’s wedding postponed
The abrupt announcement that the wedding was being put off came with little warning, and the decision was attributed to a lack of time to prepare and a desire to avoid overloading the imperial family’s schedule
Officially, the wedding scheduled for November between Japan’s Princess Mako and Kei Komuro has been delayed by more than one year because the couple had insufficient time to make all the necessary preparations and they did not want their celebrations to clash with the abdication of the emperor in 2019.
Unofficially, the Imperial Household Agency – the power behind Japan’s Chrysanthemum Throne – has stepped in after a rash of media reports alleging the mother of Komuro, a commoner who works as a paralegal, borrowed 4 million yen (US$36,700) from her former fiancée to cover her son’s education expenses and then declined to pay it back.
According to reports in the Japanese media, Komuro’s mother said she regarded the money as a “gift”.
The faintest whiff of scandal surrounding the union would have been sufficient to set alarm bells ringing at the IHA, but the domestic media – sensing a good story – has continued to dig up new revelations.
It has since been reported Komuro’s father committed suicide but the man’s family has been attempting to get back into the family picture since the engagement to the princess was first announced in September. Another suggestion is that Komuro’s maternal grandfather was Korean.
The abrupt announcement that the wedding was being put off from November came with little warning, and the decision was attributed to a lack of time to prepare and a desire to avoid overloading the imperial family’s schedule as the emperor’s abdication draws closer.
“We believe we have rushed various things. I wish to think about marriage more deeply and concretely and give sufficient time to prepare our marriage and for after the marriage,” the 26-year-old princess said on Tuesday.
The wedding is being delayed until an unspecified date in 2020 after a “series of ceremonies important for the imperial family have ended smoothly,” she added.
“We feel extremely sorry for causing great trouble and further burden to those who have willingly supported us,” she said.
Takaharu Kachi, a spokesman for the agency, told reporters in Tokyo: “The postponement is not because of the influence of weekly magazine reports. Their intention to get married is unchanged.”
The Japanese public “half-believes” the official line on the postponement, said Makoto Watanabe, an associate professor of communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University.
“But there is also a feeling that 25 is quite young to get married and the groom’s job is not so well-paid, so it is possible that they will have financial issues after their marriage,” he said.
With the law requiring the princess leave the imperial family after marrying a commoner, it would bring shame on the institution should she end up struggling financially.
“But I think it is clear that the media coverage of allegations surrounding Komuro’s mother have played a part as well,” Watanabe said.
“The question has to be whether the Imperial Household Agency failed to carry out a background check on Komuro before the engagement was announced, which I find hard to believe. Or, if they did the checks on him and his family, did they miss this problem or just ignore it and hope nothing came of it?
“My sense is that if the agency had known, they would have stepped in much earlier and put a stop to it, so the first they knew about his mother’s financial problems came up when they read about it in the media.”
Watanabe dismissed suggestions Komuro’s possible Korean heritage might have been the reason for the imperial family developing cold feet on the union.
He pointed out that the emperor has in the past stated it is inevitable researchers will find imperial links to the elite dynasties of China and the Korean Peninsula if they go back far enough.
“To me, the suggestion of criminal behaviour surrounding the money is the far more important – and potentially damaging – revelation,” Watanabe said.
“The agency has said that the wedding is only being postponed and that it will go ahead, but I am not completely confident in that. I would put the likelihood at about half right now.”