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Japanese princess turns a commoner by marriage
Updated: 2004-11-15 09:29

Imperial Couple's daughter will be a commoner.

Japan's Princess Nori (R) smiles after attending a student speech contest in Tokyo, November 14, 2004. [AP]
Princess Nori, 35-year-old, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will marry Yoshiki Kuroda, an official in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, a senior Imperial Household Agency official said Sunday.

An official announcement will be made in late December in line with the wishes of the 35-year-old princess, whose other formal name is Sayako, and the 39-year-old Kuroda, said Shingo Haketa, vice grand steward of the Imperial Household.

The Emperor and Empress have approved the marriage, he said, adding that the wedding will be held as early as this spring. With the marriage, Princess Nori will become a commoner.

The agency planned to announce the engagement earlier this month, but the Emperor and Empress as well as the young couple wanted a postponement out of consideration for the victims of the recent deadly typhoons and earthquakes.

The princess, who Sunday attended a youth speech contest in Tokyo, smiled to reporters when they called out their congratulations.

Kuroda refused to discuss details of the matter with reporters outside his home in Shibuya Ward.

"I'd like to refrain from talking about it before the official announcement," he said. "I hope you understand the circumstances."

Asked whether he had spoken with the princess, he replied: "Today being such a day (with the Imperial Household Agency announcing the upcoming engagement), it was impossible."

He added that he has relatives in Niigata affected by the quakes.

"I would like to spend the days until the official announcement quietly," Kuroda said.

Both Princess Nori and Kuroda are graduates of Gakushuin University in Tokyo.

While at Gakushuin, Kuroda belonged to the nature and culture study club headed by classmate Prince Akishino, Princess Nori's brother and the Emperor and Empress' second son. His wife, Princess Kiko, was also a club member.

Kuroda has been a close friend of Prince Akishino since childhood. He first met the princess through her brother, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

After a long interval, the two were reunited last year at an annual dinner that Prince Akishino holds at his residence for his old schoolmates, after which they became close, sources said. In recent months, Kuroda frequently attended monthly tennis parties also hosted by the prince.

The pair decided to get married in summer, they added.

The last member of the Imperial family to become a commoner by marriage was the Emperor's cousin, Princess Masako, Prince Mikasa's second daughter, who left the family when she got married in October 1983.

Princess Takako, the late Emperor Showa's fifth daughter, was the last member of an emperor's immediate family to leave the Imperial family via marriage. Her wedding was in 1960.

When an Imperial family member becomes a commoner by marriage, he or she gets a lump sum of up to about 150 million yen by law. Princess Takako received 15 million yen at her marriage.

Born April 18, 1969, Princess Nori graduated from the private university in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in Japanese language and literature.

Apart from her official functions, the princess works at the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture, where she has been involved in kingfisher research.

She has also been active in welfare issues, including the training of guide dogs, and classical Japanese dance.

She visited Brazil in 1995, Eastern Europe in 1996, France in 1997, Peru and Bolivia in 1999, and Uruguay and Honduras in 2003 to promote relations between Japan and those countries.

After graduating from the university's law school in 1988, Kuroda joined Mitsui Bank, one of the predecessors of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

In April 1997, he left for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government out of his desire to serve the public, and now works in its construction department.

Kuroda lives with his mother, Sumiko, 69. His father worked for Toyota Motor Corp. before his death in 1986. He has a younger brother who is married.

"Although he keeps low profile, he has a quick mind and does thankless jobs in the background," said a friend of Kuroda's. "He is very gentle and we see him as our big brother."

Masami Suzuki, Kuroda's superior at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, expressed surprise at reports of the marriage.

"I knew nothing about it because he did not say anything," Suzuki said. "If the reports are true, I'd like to offer my sincere congratulations."

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