Kei Komuro, 25, who is set to be engaged to Princess Mako, 25, proposed about a year after they met in 2012 through a friend at International Christian University in Tokyo, where they studied, Imperial Household Agency officials have said.
Princess Mako’s parents, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, have approved the union, and Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are aware of their plans, agency officials said on Tuesday night. Their official engagement is expected to be announced in mid-June at the earliest, and the wedding ceremony is expected to be held next year.
It will be the first engagement among the Emperor and Empress’ four grandchildren.
Komuro revealed little when he met reporters on Wednesday morning in the lobby of the law firm where he works in Chuo Ward, Tokyo. He talked only briefly, saying he will speak about the engagement when the “time is right,” and parried a slew of questions about his relationship with the princess and about himself.
He did say, “This morning, I said to (Princess Mako) over the phone, ‘I’m off now,’ and she said, ‘Talk to you later.’ “
Komuro faced reporters the morning after Imperial Household Agency chief Shinichiro Yamamoto confirmed media reports of their impending engagement at a hastily arranged news conference Tuesday night.
Princess Mako was seen smiling and bowing her head slightly in a car when she left her residence, Akasaka Palace, on Wednesday morning.
The news comes just days before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is expected to finalize a bill for submission to the current Diet session to enable the 83-year-old Emperor to hand over the Chrysanthemum Throne to Crown Prince Naruhito in Japan’s first abdication in two centuries.
A former bank employee, Komuro has been working for the law firm since spring last year and also studies at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, majoring in business law. He has not yet qualified as a lawyer.
His boss at the law firm said Komuro called Tuesday night to apologize for not telling him of the engagement beforehand.
In 2010, at age 18, Komuro was chosen as a tourism ambassador for Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, and worked for about a year to promote the city.
“He was a lively, sociable and kind boy,” said Hiromi Arai, who was involved in the selection of ambassadors for the tourism association.
According to a profile released by the association at the time, Komuro, who served as a “prince of the sea,” liked to play the violin, cook and ski, and his dream was to get involved in foreign affairs.
“He was like a prince. He was studying hard about Fujisawa so he could promote the city. Since he was fluent in English, he would actively talk with foreign people,” said Rina Namikawa, a Fujisawa city worker who was chosen as “queen of the sea” alongside Komuro.
During his university years, Komuro had part-time jobs at a French restaurant and a cram school, where he taught English.
“He treated everybody the same way and was popular among students,” said Yasushi Abe, 58, who heads the cram school. “He listened to the students’ worries and tried to come up with solutions with them.”
Komuro lives in Yokohama with his mother and grandfather. His father passed away when he was a child, according to his neighbors. He went to an international school until he graduated from high school.
The last marriage of a princess took place in October 2014, when Princess Noriko, a daughter of Emperor Akihito’s late cousin Prince Takamado, tied the knot with Kunimaro Senge, the eldest son of the chief priest of Izumo Taisha, a Shinto shrine in Shimane Prefecture.
Emperor Akihito’s only daughter, Princess Sayako, left the Imperial household when she married a Tokyo government official in 2005, becoming Sayako Kuroda.
Princess Mako enrolled at International Christian University in April 2010, becoming the first Imperial family member to attend the university. She studied in the Faculty of Arts and majored in arts and cultural property studies. She also studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as an exchange student for nine months when she was a junior at ICU.
After graduation, she went on to study at the University of Leicester in England, where she obtained a master’s degree in art museum and gallery studies in January 2016.
Currently the princess is an affiliate researcher at the University Museum of the University of Tokyo and is studying in a doctoral program at International Christian University.
She also attends ceremonies and serves as an honorary president of some events, such as the Tokyo International Book Fair, as part of her official duties. From her childhood days, she has been known for being fond of reading and drawing.