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Japan's Princess Nori, 35, awaiting wedding bells
(Agencies)
Updated: 2005-03-21 09:30

The only daughter of Japanese Emperor Akihito has been formally betrothed ! at 35 years old, one of an increasing number of Japanese women who have chosen to wait for their wedding bells.

Yoshiki Kuroda (L), 39, and Japan's Princess Sayako, 35, look at each other during a press conference regarding their engagement at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo December 30, 2004. Princess Sayako, the only daughter of Japan's emperor and empress, has become engaged to Kuroda, a commoner and will marry late next year, the nation's top courtier said on Thursday. [Reuters]
Yoshiki Kuroda (L), 39, and Japan's Princess Sayako, 35, look at each other during a press conference regarding their engagement at the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo December 30, 2004. Princess Sayako, the only daughter of Japan's emperor and empress, has become engaged to Kuroda, a commoner and will marry late next year, the nation's top courtier said on Thursday. [Reuters]

Princess Nori's betrothal Saturday to Yoshiaki Kuroda, 39, who works in the urban planning department at Tokyo city hall, was sealed in a ceremony when a messenger from his family brought traditional gifts ! bolts of silk, rice wine and sea bream ! to the Imperial Palace.

A senior courtier accepted the presents, met the emperor, empress and Princess Nori, and conveyed their message of acceptance. Similar gifts were to be delivered to Kuroda's family later.

A date for the wedding has not been set, but it is likely to take place this autumn.

It used to be said in Japan that an unmarried woman was like Christmas cake: no good after 25.

But Nori joins the growing ranks of Japanese women who are choosing to get married later, reflecting changes in society and the workplace and worrying policymakers concerned about a falling birthrate.

Census figures showed that in 2000, some 54 percent of Japanese women in their late 20s were unmarried, compared to only 24 percent two decades earlier.

Couples are also opting to have fewer children, or none at all. The average number of children a Japanese woman gives birth to in her lifetime fell to a record low of 1.29 in 2003.

Among women Princess Nori's age ! 35 to 39 ! 13.8 percent were single in 2000 compared to a scant 4.4 percent in 1980.

"Nobody in Japan thinks badly of Nori because she took until 35 to get married, though," said Harueko Kato, a professor at Tokyo Women's Christian University.

"It merely reflects Japanese society these days."



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