Princess Mako made a “dramatic exit” from Japan’s royal family by marrying her college sweetheart.
Just like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, she and her husband plan to start a new life in America.
While comparisons have been drawn between the couples, they’re actually very different.
Princess Mako married her college sweetheart, Kei Komuro, on October 26 and in doing so renounced her royal title.
The move was seen by some as controversial and even led to protests on the streets of Tokyo. Japanese outlets such as Japan Times and Aera began comparing Mako and Komuro to a certain former working royal couple: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
But similarities between the couples are arguably few and far between.
Both couples have a complicated relationship with the press
Just after Mako and Komuro announced their engagement in 2017, reports that his mother was involved in a financial dispute led the Imperial Royal Household to put the wedding on hold, according to a 2018 Times of London article. Citing a report by the news magazine Shukan Shincho, the Times of London article said Komuro’s mother owed 4.3 million yen, or close to $38,000, to a businessman for a loan repayment.
Following the dispute, Komuro was seen by many as a “gold digger,” according to The New York Times.
Speaking at the press conference after they married, Mako said “arbitrary criticism” and “incorrect” reporting about her husband made her feel “great fear, stress, and sadness,” Reuters reported. Her comments came weeks after the Imperial Household Agency announced she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to media speculation in the lead-up to her wedding, The Telegraph reported.
Similarly, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have spoken out about how they have been treated by the British tabloid media, though unlike Mako and Komuro they have taken some media outlets to court.
Markle won a number of privacy and copyright claims against the Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers earlier this year, after the publication published a private letter she wrote to her father in February 2019. And during Markle and Harry’s Oprah Winfrey interview in March, they opened up about how racist and biased reporting among British tabloids ultimately contributed to their decision to leave.
Markle told Winfrey she experienced suicidal thoughts and “didn’t want to be alive anymore” due to the criticism she faced.
“That was a clear and real and frightening and constant thought,” she said, adding that she had approached a senior royal staff member about getting help for her mental health but was turned away.
Both couples had private wedding ceremonies, but Harry and Markle followed tradition
Mako and Komuro’s wedding involved far less fanfare typically associated with Japanese royal weddings. Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako’s 1993 wedding saw the couple parade through central Tokyo while crowds of people waved behind, the Daily Mail reported.
Forgoing a ceremony, reception, or traditional portraits, Mako and Komuro instead had an official from the Imperial Household register their union and gave a short press conference, answering questions in writing, according to Kyodo News.
Harry and Markle said they had an intimate, secret ceremony three days before their televised royal wedding, a lavish public celebration at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their royal wedding was attended by everyone from George Clooney to Serena Williams, and the after-party included an Elton John performance.
Unlike the Sussexes, Mako and Komuro will live in an NYC apartment
Like Harry and Markle, who moved to North America after stepping back from royal life in January 2020, Mako and Komuro are planning to live in the US.
Komuro has been working as a legal clerk in Manhattan following his studies at Fordham University, the Daily Mail reported. On Saturday, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported he failed his first attempt at the bar exam, but is said to be planning a February retake with Mako’s support.
The one-bedroom New York City apartment Mako and Komuro plan to move into will be very different from the luxurious, 538,000-square-feet Akasaka Estate, where Mako grew up alongside other members of the Imperial Household, the Telegraph reports.
As for Harry and Markle, they initially lived in a $13.26 million waterfront home on Vancouver Island in Canada before relocating to the exclusive neighborhood of Montecito, California, in March 2020, where they now live in a $14.7 million property.
Harry and Markle remain in the spotlight, but that may not be the case for Mako and Komuro
While Markle and Harry have continued with their charity work, attended public speaking events, aired their Oprah interview, and signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce documentaries and films, Ken Ruoff, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Portland State University, told CNN that Mako and Komuro’s “dramatic exit” from royal life doesn’t mean they plan to pursue life in the public eye.
“I think what’s going to happen is they’re just going to disappear,” he said.
Asked about comparisons she gets to Markle and Harry earlier this year, Mako said she didn’t have any “particular thoughts,” but that she only wants to live a “peaceful life,” according to the Japan Times.
Harry said he didn’t get financial support from his family, while Mako refused hers
Before her wedding, it was reported that Mako rejected the $1.3 million payout typically offered to female royal family members who leave the Imperial Household.
By contrast, Harry has said that his family financially cut him off around the same time he and Markle announced they were stepping back, telling Winfrey during their interview that he’d been paying for his own security with the inheritance money his late mother, Princess Diana, left for him.
“I’ve got what my mum left me, and without that, we would not have been able to do this,” Harry said.
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