Japan's Princess Aiko Praises Her Cousin Princess Mako Who Left Royal Life to Marry Commoner

Princess Mako gave up her royal titles to marry Kei Komuro, a commoner, last October.

Princess Aiko, Princess Mako
Princess Aiko and Princess Mako. Photo: STR/JAPAN POOL/AFP via Getty; NICOLAS DATICHE/POOL/AFP via Getty

Observing a modern rite of passage, Japan's Princess Aiko sailed through her first royal press conference on Thursday.

Following her opening remarks, the only child of Emperor Naruhito, 62, and Empress Masako, 58, appeared poised and confident, taking questions during a 30-minute-long session.

In between remarks expressing sympathy for the victims of a 7.4-magnitude earthquake that hit eastern Japan on Wednesday and the war in Ukraine, she revealed a number of insights, including her views on love and marriage.

The 20-year Imperial Princess also praised her cousin, Princess Mako, describing her "like a dependable older sister."

After several years of controversy and postponements, Aiko's cousin gave up her royal titles to marry Kei Komuro, a commoner, last October. Mako and Kei met almost 10 years ago in college.

Wed in very understated circumstances, the couple, both 30, have been living in New York City since their wedding.

"I will always remember with gratitude how she was so friendly and kind to me," Aiko said. "As her cousin, I pray that she will be happy for many years."

Princess Aiko
Japan's Princess Aiko. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

Asked to comment on the couple's subdued wedding, which continues to generate controversy in Japan, Princess Aiko said she has heard the decision to forgo certain traditional rites such as an audience with the emperor and empress, was made by her father in consultation with his brother, Crown Prince Akishino.

According to reports, the princess then declined to speak further on the subject.

During a press conference with her new husband last year, Mako commented on her life-changing decision to leave royal life behind for love.

"Kei is irreplaceable to me," she said. "We had no choice but to get married in order to live our lives and be true to our hearts."

Princess Mako
Kei Komuro and Princess Mako. SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI/AFP via Getty Images

Discussing her own potential wedding and ideal partner, Aiko said she hasn't given marriage much thought.

"As for my ideal partner, I don't have anyone specific in mind, but I feel a relationship in which we can be together and both parties can make each other smile would be ideal," she said.

To meet the press, Aiko wore a tailored muted green jacket and a matching skirt and blouse. She accessorized her demure look with a simple single strand of pearls, pearl earrings and a diamond brooch.

Thursday's press conference, which took place at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, occurred during spring break at Tokyo's Gakushuin University, where the sophomore majors in Japanese language and literature. She has also briefly attended Britain's Eton College.

The Princess Imperial, who turned 20 on December 1, participated in the traditional coming-of-age ceremony held in her honor on Dec. 5, as well as the New Year Greeting presentation. She chose to delay the press conference that's traditionally held in concert with these events to concentrate on her studies.

Princess Aiko
Princess Aiko. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

During Thursday's press event she admitted to feeling "tense" during the ceremonies. She said she's discovered she "needs to approach each event with a sense of responsibility." The princess also revealed that her father the Emperor is her occasional jogging partner. They run together inside the Imperial Palace gardens and she sometimes joins staffers in volleyball and badminton matches.

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!

Nearly 3,000 years old, the Chrysanthemum Throne is the world's oldest monarchy. In recent decades, however, it has suffered a dramatic shortage of qualified heirs. Japanese law currently refuses women the right of Imperial succession and the present-day male line has dwindled down to three: Crown Prince Fumihito Akishino, 56, his son Prince Hisahito, 15, and Prince Masahito, 86, who has no children.

In December, a government task force charged with finding solutions to reverse the monarchy's dwindling eligibility proposed two routes, including one that would allow women marrying commoners to retain royal status. The official report, however, also called for its own recommendations to be decided at a later date.

Related Articles