Princess Ayako, the youngest daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin, will retain honorary positions at two organizations even after leaving the imperial family following her marriage to a commoner next week, the Imperial Household Agency and the bodies’ officials said Friday.
No other female imperial family member has ever continued to serve in such positions after becoming a commoner upon marriage, according to the agency.
The move comes amid concerns about the shrinking number of imperial family members performing public duties as women lose their royal status after marrying a commoner under the Imperial House Law.
The agency believes the practice is unlikely to pose any problem as the Canada-Japan Society and the Japan Sea Cadet Federation, where the princess holds the honorary president positions, do not restrict title holders to imperial family members.
An official denied the agency played an active role in the decision, saying it was based on an agreement between the princess and the two organizations.
But the continued service by a former imperial family member could help address the shortage of royals performing official duties and possibly influence activities of other women in the imperial family.
In addition to Princess Ayako, 28, who will tie the knot with Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old employee at shipping firm Nippon Yusen K.K., on Monday, Princess Mako, 27, the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito, is expected to marry a commoner.
Last year, the agency announced the planned engagement between Princess Mako and her longtime boyfriend Kei Komuro, 27, although their formal engagement and wedding were subsequently postponed until 2020 due to «lack of preparation.»
After Princess Ayako and Princess Mako marry, the number of imperial family members will fall to 17 and that of female members to 12.
In an interview with Kyodo News in June, Princess Hisako, the mother of Princess Ayako, said it would be «possible» that her daughter will continue to serve as honorary president «given the need» for her to do so.
Princess Ayako took over the honorary titles of the two entities from her mother in January and February this year, taking into account her experience of studying in Canada and the need for the younger generation to perform such duties.
As honorary patron of the Canada-Japan Society, Princess Ayako held talks with the chair of the organization in June at her residence. She also visited the northeastern Japan city of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, in September to observe drills and had exchanges with boy members of the Japan Sea Cadet Federation.
All — Kyodo News+