Japan's Princess Ayako has surrendered her royal status as she marries for love
Under crisp blue skies, about 1,000 well-wishers turned out at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo Monday to catch a glimpse of Japan's Princess Ayako and her groom KeiMoriya on their wedding day.
As the smiling couple entered the shrine, the crowd shouted their congratulations with the Japanese word "Banzai" -- meaning an auspicious wish for long life.
The 28-year-old Princess Ayako is the youngest child of Princess Hisako and the late Prince Takamodo, cousin of Emperor Akihito. According to Japan's imperial law, female members of the royal family forfeit their titles, status and allowance if they choose to marry someone who does not have royal or aristocratic family ties. The same rule does not apply to male members of the royal family.
On marrying 32-year-old Moriya -- an employee of shipping company Nippon Yusen KK -- the princess will renounce her royal status and take a lump sum of $950,000 from the Japanese government for living expenses.
The ceremony itself was a private affair, attended only by close family members. Inside, the couple would have performed several rituals that mark a Shinto-style wedding, including exchanging nuptial sake cups and presenting a sacred Tamagushi branch as an offering. The newlyweds would have also exchanged marriage vows and rings.
Ayoko's marriage and resignation from royal duties comes at a trying time for the world's oldest monarchy. The country's much-loved Emperor Akihitio announced that he will abdicate on April 30, 2019, passing the Chrysanthemum Throne to his son Crown Prince Naruhito. Imperial law states that the throne must be passed to male heirs, and as Naruhito has only one son, the 12-year-old Prince Hisahito could be left with the sole responsibility of carrying on the royal line.
Akihitio's abdication and the forthcoming marriage of his granddaughter Princess Mako reignited debate about the role women play in Japan's monarchy and whether imperial law should change to allow women to inherit the throne.