The (former) Princess at the Museum: Japan’s Mako Komuro, who left the Imperial House of Japan, Interns at the Met - LA Lives

When you take a picture on The Met’s iconic steps you might be very near a former princess.

Recent news has left both royalty fans and art appreciators in a tizzy: Japan’s Mako Komuro, who left the Japanese Imperial Family last year to marry her commoner boyfriend Kei Komuro, is now doing a likely unpaid internship at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as The Met.

Backtrack a little: Why did Komuro have to leave her family to marry the man she loved? Due to some seriously antiquated rules, Japanese Princesses in the Imperial House both cannot inherit the throne, and marry commoners. The former has never applied to Komuro anyway (her uncle, not her father, is the current Emperor), so it’s the marriage thing that’s important to this story.

Read More: What She Did For Love

In the pre-WWII era, a Japanese Princess could marry a member of the aristocracy. However, after the war, thanks to the new and current 1947 Constitution of Japan, the aristocracy was abolished. (Most high-ranking military men from the war came from the aristocratic class.)

Thus went the previous source of husbands for Japanese princesses. Even if these men come from rich and prestigious families, known as the Kazoku class, they are effectively commoners.

In any normal situation, Komuro’s future would have been to stay unmarried (like other Japanese princesses) or marry a Kazoku and stay in Japan, while no longer publicly being part of the family.

However, the heart wants what it wants: The Princess fell in love with Kei Komuro. The son of a woman who gave birth to him out of wedlock, he took loans to finance his education by borrowing from a scrupulous former fiancée. In other words, a true commoner.

Said former fiancée tattled to the press when news of the engagement went out, and the majority of Japanese people, still very much conservative, lost their minds: Kei Komuro went abroad and moved to New York to study law at Fordham University, and a choice was given to the then-Princess Mako: love or duty?

Princess Mako chose love and married Komuro and left her family and Japan. She also chose not to take the 1.2 million payout given to Japanese princesses when they leave the family (the 1.2 million is supposed to help them adjust to “normal” life).

She moved to New York, armed with her degrees in Art History from the International Christian University in Tokyo and the University of Leicester. The former royal lives in an apartment with her husband in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan and goes shopping at Bed, Bath & Beyond for home goods.

At the press conference after the wedding and before the big move, she said “What I would like is just to lead a peaceful life in my new environment.”

One of the ways the now-Mrs. Komuro is using her degree as a volunteer position at the Met, one of the most prestigious art institutions in the world. She is assisting in an exhibition of hanging-scroll paintings about the life of Ippen (1239-1289), a Japanese monk during the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).

The Met webpage describing the diptych entitled “Monk Ippen Giving a Warrior the Tonsure and His Wife as a Lay Buddhist Nun” by Yamada Shinzan has an essay written by Komuro describing the piece, and the artist who created it. Her name is also credited in the catalog entry.

After the exhibition, it is unknown what Komuro’s next steps are. Perhaps a permanent position at The Met beckons.

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