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Confronting patriarchal customs: Princess Mako leaves the Japanese royal family

By Suvia Li Dec. 8, 2021

Despite being a personal matter, former Japanese Princess Mako’s non-royal marriage has brought to light the heavily patriarchal laws that the Japanese imperial family is subject to, as well as the social pressures that women in the royal family face. After marrying her fiancé Kei Komuro after four years of engagement on Oct. 26, she was forced to forfeit her royal title.

Although the modern constitution of Japan guarantees equality between citizens regardless of gender, these laws do not apply to the royal family. Kailey Hu Art The Imperial Household Law of

1947, passed during the U.S. occupation of Japan following World War II, bars women in the Japanese royal family from taking the throne and requires them to leave the royal family if they marry someone without imperial lineage. Overall, the status of imperial women in Japan is dependent on men—non-royal women who marry into the royal family gain their husband’s royal status. Despite their powerful titles, members of the imperial family cannot change the Imperial Household Law.

“It is harsh how women can lose their royal status for marrying a commoner—the commoner should be granted royal status instead. Additionally, I find it unfair that this law of giving up royal status does not apply to males in the imperial family,” Freshman Jason Choi said.

When Mako and Komuro announced their engagement in 2017, the Japanese public was elated for their princess. However, as rumors about Komuro’s unstable financial status emerged, many citizens protested the union—deeming Komuro unfit to marry Mako, they marched the streets with signs attacking Komuro’s character and family. As reported by the Imperial Household Agency, the public outroar has caused Mako to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, the pressures and criticism that Mako faced are expected. In traditional Japanese culture, royal women are believed to represent the sun goddess Amaterasu, the supreme deity of Japan who is seen as the “mother of mankind” and the direct ancestor of the imperial bloodline. Since Amaterasu also represents purity and order, women in the Japanese royal family are expected to embody traditional values and give birth to male heirs, continuing the cycle of patrilineal succession to Japan’s throne.

In traditional Japanese culture, royal women are believed to represent ... purity and order

Mako is not the first royal woman to be psychologically affected by these expectations and judgments. Japan’s current empress, Empress Masako, removed herself from public events in 2004 after facing constant criticism for being unable to produce a male heir. Empress Michiko, the mother of current Emperor Naruhito, was the first commoner to marry into the Japanese royal family. Michiko was heavily scrutinized by the press for unnoteworthy actions, including ordering noodles in the middle of the night and over-burdening staff. Stressed from the censure, Michiko collapsed and stayed out of the public eye for two months.

When she left the imperial family, Mako chose not to accept a payment of $1.3 million typically made to royal women who become ordinary citizens. As the first royal woman to do so, Mako’s denial of the payment has been analyzed by several news sources as a possible statement against royal patriarchal customs.

“I admire Mako for standing by her decision to marry Komuro, staying true to herself and her aims for her life and not submitting to societal pressures. Patriarchal customs are not unique to Japan, and Mako’s experiences raise awareness about this unfortunate yet largely unopposed norm,” Sophomore Dephaney Zhang said.


About the Contributors

Suvia Li

Artist & Staff Writer

Suvia Li is a sophomore at Leland High school. She is a staff writer and artist for The Charger Account. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, eating, and listening to music.

Kailey Hu


Kailey Hu is a junior at Leland High school and an artist for The Charger account. Some of her hobbies consist of drawing birds, reading novels, watching Youtube/Twitch, and eating good food.

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