Former Japanese princess Mako Komuro arrived in the United States on Sunday with her husband, swapping old imperial rites for the bright lights of New York after leaving the royal family.
The couple were quietly married in Tokyo last month, after years of tabloid gossip and online sniping about their union that Komuro said caused him “sadness and pain.”
Images broadcast on Japanese TV channels showed the couple flanked by security officials as they passed through New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport and boarded a waiting vehicle.
A move to the United States had long been the subject of rumors. The two in their thirties finally boarded a commercial flight from Tokyo to New York on Sunday, where Kei Komuro attended law school and now works.
Mako, Emperor Naruhito’s niece, lost her royal title when she married a commoner under post-war inheritance laws that only allow male members of the imperial family to ascend the throne .
After announcing their engagement in 2017, the Komuros faced a deluge of reports alleging Kei’s family had been in financial trouble.
Members of the Japanese royal family are held to high standards, and the Imperial Household Agency said Mako had developed complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of media attention.
“I was scared, I felt sadness and pain whenever one-sided rumors turned into baseless stories,” Mako said at a press conference after their wedding.
Kei said he felt “very sad that Mako is in a bad state, mentally and physically,” stating, “I love Mako. We only have one life and I want us to spend it with whoever we are. we like.”
The controversy surrounding the couple and their decision in the United States made inevitable comparisons to another royal couple: British Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Japanese media said the Komuros, who met at the University of Tokyo, have already found a place to live in New York, although it is not clear where in the city they chose to locate their new life.
The original plan was for Kei to travel to the United States before Mako, with the former princess joining him after getting his first passport, according to reports.
But Kei stayed in Japan longer than planned to attend Mako’s grandfather’s funeral.
The Emperor of Japan holds no political power, but is an important figurehead.
With a dwindling supply of male royals, there has been a debate over changing the rules in Japan, with polls showing the public broadly supports women allowed to govern.
But any change is likely to be slow, with traditionalists vehemently opposing it.