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Japan

The fairy tale that went wrong

Princess Mako with Kei Komuro in 2017. Shizuo Kambayashi/AFP/Getty Images

When a Japanese princess announced her engagement to a non-royal in 2017, it was a national fairy tale, says Justin McCurry in The Guardian. The local media fawned over Princess Mako, 29, and her commoner fiancé, Kei Komuro, 30. The pair met at university; she was a modern princess with an art degree; he was a “clean-cut trainee lawyer”. But with the wedding just weeks away, the couple are renouncing their titles and plan to move to America.

What went wrong? Blame the groom-to-be’s past, says Dana Kennedy in the New York Post. When Komuro was 10, his father killed himself; his devastated grandfather took his own life a week later and his grandmother is reported to have done the same within the year. So Komuro was raised by his mother, Kayo, who worked in a bakery and made little money. As you’d expect, the press were obsessed. They hounded Komuro at law school in the US – so much so that he spent his days hiding in his dorm. They went after his mother, tracking down an old boyfriend who said she owed him £30,000 for her son’s school fees. Despite Komuro’s explanation that the man said there was no expectation of repayment, and his mother understood it to be a gift, newspapers painted Kayo as a “money-grubbing social climber who took cash from men to put her son through international schools so he could snag a royal”.

The media attention became so intense that Princess Mako was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She’ll be better off in Manhattan, Japanese journalist Kasumi Abe tells the New York Post. “It was like she was in a cage when she was living as part of the imperial family.” The princess recently refused her £1m state-funded dowry. “Since she has given up the money, they probably won’t have a lot. So she really needs to get a job!” It’s all a bit like Megxit – only without the glamour and cash.