The Princess Who Gave Up Her Status For Love.
The oldest living hereditary monarchy in the world. The Imperial Family (皇室 Kōshitsu) has been ruled continuously by the same family line since 660 BC. Starting with Emperor Jimmu and continuing through today's Emperor Akihito.
Born into Imperial royalty, in princess, Ayako was the first in her family to be born during the Heisei period. (The era of her cousin, Emperor Akihito. Akihito remains emperor to this day, set to abdicate in April of 2019. The two are distant cousins, only sharing a common relative dating back to 1912.
Ayako attended prestigious schools her whole life. Starting with the Gakushūin School for her K-12 education. Ayako graduated from Josai International University, receiving a masters in social welfare. She now works as a research fellow at JIU's Faculty of Social Work Studies. In August of 2018, Keio University Graduate and businessman, Kei Moriya proposed to the Princess. I'm sure there was no pressure there! Kei, like his new wife, is a well-traveled man, He went to kindergarten in Paris, attended schools throughout Switzerland, Britain, and graduated in Tokyo. He is a runner who keeps in shape by running marathons and competing in triathlons.
The couple met in December 2017, they had both attended the 20th Anniversary reception of Children Without Borders. Ayako’s mother had introduced the two of them.
Ayako says of their first meeting, “I recall immediately engaging in conversation with such warmth that one would not think it was our first meeting, and losing track of time as I enjoyed my time with him. As we met, again and again, I often felt Mr. Moriya’s gentle, stylish, and decisive character, and we began the formal dating process.”
Moriya was drawn to the princess from day one, he describes her as a “bright, forward-facing person” He notes that Ayako shows warmth, kindness to all which is why he decided he wanted to spend his whole life with her.
In April, not more than four months after their meeting, Kei proposed!
Adjusting to Common Life
Both agreed that their ideal household would be, “a bright household where the smiles never end”. Moriya made a point of saying that relationships based on mutual respect are more important than anything.
We couldn’t agree more!
When asked how he felt about taking a princess from the Imperial House to be his wife, Moriya responded, “Being allowed to take a member of the Imperial Household to become my wife inspires deep awe in me, but I feel extremely grateful and privileged that this is possible.”
The couple performed a traditional Shinto ceremony. A small affair limited to family with a large reception to follow. Shinzen Kekkon translates to “wedding before the kami”
Kami are the spirits or phenomena worshiped as ancestors. Sake is exchanged between the couple before they are married.
A priest stands to the right of the altar, a Miko, or shrine maid stands to the left. The couple in the center of the room. The priest purifies the room and calls attention to the Kami.
Next is the san-san-ku-do or three three nine times. Three oaths are taken three times representing three cups poured three times and swallowed in three sips. These are symbolic of fertility.
The first cup, the smallest is poured for the groom, he drinks offers the rest to the bride. The second cup is for the bride, she then offers to the groom. The last pour is the largest cup, given to the groom then the bride.
The Sake part of the Shinto wedding is central. The ritual is believed to have originated from Samurai weddings.
As the couple approaches the altar, they exchange their handwritten vows. Finally, the family can join in the sake drinking.
Lastly, the priest offers Japanses evergreen to the alter, reflecting gratitude to the Kami for their blessings and attendance. The bride and groom then offer their own alms. Then the rings are exchanged. “Within wedding prayers, the gods Izanagi and Izanami are often invoked. These married gods were part of the Japanese lore of the "first wedding," and are called upon to reflect a harmonious balance within the marriage.”
On October 29, 2018, the 28-year-old princess and the 32-year-old businessman were wed.
The two arrived at the Meji Shrine in traditional court attire. A kimono robe and hakama pants for her with her hair tied in an ancient style called osuberakashi, this style is specifically for noblewomen. Moriya wore a morning suit and held his bride's late father’s top hat.-- an adorable touch--
The two exchanged vows and rings surrounded by thirty of their closest friends and family.
"I am filled with happiness," she told reporters after the ceremony. Moriya said he hoped to help Ayako adjust to a commoner's life.
This was the first Imperial marriage since 2014 when Ayakos older sister Noriko married Kunimaro Senge.
Shrinking Imperial Family
Due to the imperial rule imposed on its daughters forcing them from the royal family if they decide to have a family of their own, the Imperial family has seen a significant decline.
After Ayako there are only 18 total members of the royal bloodline left to marry. Of the eligible descendants, 15 are female and will be forced to give up their status when marriage comes. When a prince marries, the common woman is brought to the imperial family. The same does not go for Japan's princesses.
The bloodline relies upon the youngest son of Akishino, and grandson to Akihito, Prince Hisahito (Circled above). He is third in line to the throne and will need to have sons to pass the throne down to. If he does not produce a son, Japan will be forced to take a hard look at the practice of exiling it’s princesses.
Princess Mako is the next to get married. She will wed commoner Kei Komuro in 2020 ahead of the Olympics. The two have been engaged, but Mako is postponing to keep her royal status until 2020.