Japanese Princess Ayako has married a commoner in a ritual-filled ceremony at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine, a decision that will force her to renounce her royal status. She arrived shortly after 10 am wearing a red "kouchiki", which has been worn since the 9th century.
The 28-year-old princess lost her royal status after her marriage to the 32-year-old employee of shipping company Nippon Yusen K.K. was legally registered following the ceremony.
The couple first met last December when they were introduced by Princess Ayako's mother Princess Hisako, who had long known Moriya's parents and met with the groom last November at a photo exhibition of a nonprofit organization supporting children in developing countries.
"I'm filled with joy to get married and to have so many people visit us at the Meiji Shrine and congratulate us", she said after the ceremony. The same rule does not apply to male members of the royal family.
According to the newspaper, the groom told reporters he hoped to "build a family full of smiles".
Ayako's departure leaves just 18 members in Japan's Imperial Household.
Despite leaving the royal family, Ayako said she hopes to continue to help emperor Akihito as a former member of the imperial family. It was opened in 1920 and is dedicated to the deified souls of Ayako's great-great grandfather, Emperor Meiji, and his wife, Empress Shoken.
The 85-year old will hand over power to his eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, on May 1. However, the family is experiencing a shortage of males, with just four male heirs to the throne now.
The shrinking royal family has raised concerns and provoked calls for changes in the Imperial Succession Law, which also prohibits royal women from ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
"It is a sensible option and necessary in terms of managing risk but the elite conservatives that govern have resisted strongly despite robust public support for female succession", said Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan and author of upcoming book Japan.
"Apparently they take no inspiration from Queen Elizabeth ... and instead take refuge behind fatuous patriarchal justifications for not doing so", Kingston said.