If you had to give up everything you knew for love, are you confident that you would choose your partner every time? On Monday in Tokyo, Japan’s 28-year-old Princess Ayako did just that by marrying Kei Moriya, a non-royal. On her wedding day, Princess Ayako wore a large, delicate yellow kimono with pink flowers and had extravagantly molded hair—typical of imperial aristocracy—while the groom wore a traditional western-style black tuxedo. While Princess Ayako gained a husband today, saying in a news conference, “I’m filled with joy to get married and to have so many people visit us at the Meiji Shrine and congratulate us,” she also effectively renounced her royal title.
In Japanese Imperial law, the female members of the royal family are required to let go of their royal titles if they choose to marry someone without ties to a royal or aristocratic family. (This is not true of the men in the royal family, who are free to marry whomever they like.) Because her new husband has no royal connections—and is instead a humble employee of a shipping company—this means that all of Princess Ayako’s money, status and her title ended today. She’s not coming away with nothing, however. The Japanese government will reportedly owe her a cool $950,000 for living expenses, but her royal life as she knows it is over.
The news of the couple’s engagement this past summer was met with a whirlwind of press and questions about their romance, which is, admittedly, adorable albeit life-changing in more ways than one for the young princess.
“It didn’t feel as though we had met for the first time,” Ayako said to reporters at their engagement press conference. Moriya also complimented his soon-to-be-bride, saying that she had a “gentle spirit.”
After today’s ceremony, Moriya said he hoped to acclimate his new bride to the life of a commoner and the young couple seemed happy to greet their guests and participate in their Shinto-style wedding at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, which just so happens to be dedicated to Ayako’s great-great grandfather Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.
A Shinto-Style Wedding
Princess Ayako and Kei Moriya were wed in a traditional Shinto-style wedding, which became popular in Japan during the 20th century. Today, less than 20 percent of modern Japanese weddings are Shinto style—with an increasing amount of couples opting for a more western style wedding.
The Shinto wedding is a very small ceremony, consisting of only the couple, the bride and groom’s family, and a few close friends. The bride will typically wear a white kimono with a white scarf, which, like in many other cultures, symbolizes purity. The ceremony begins with a purification called “shubatsu,” where the Shinto priest rids the couple of impurities before the ceremony for the Japanese gods. Prayers for good luck and happiness are then said before the couple drinks ceremonial sake.
Following the sake, the bride or groom (or sometimes both) will take an oath in front of the gods and then a “Miko” (a shrine maiden) will perform a dance for the gods. The end of the ceremony includes an offering of “tamagushi” (a sacred branch) and a ceremonial sake drinking for all the friends and family, which is said to bond the two families together.
Photos via CNN.