Kei Komuro, the boyfriend of Princess Mako, returned to Japan on Monday for the first time in about three years from the United States, where he lives, to prepare for their marriage amid a controversy over a financial dispute involving his mother.
Komuro, 29, is expected to hold a press conference together with the niece of Emperor Naruhito after roughly two weeks of coronavirus quarantine and the two plan to register their marriage in October before starting a new life in the United States, where Komuro is working at a law firm, sources familiar with the matter have said.
Wearing a suit without a necktie and his long hair tied back in a ponytail, Komuro arrived at Narita airport near Tokyo at around 3:30 p.m. flanked by security guards amid huge media attention.
Bowing to around 170 waiting members of the press, he proceeded through the airport in silence, subsequently leaving around 5 p.m. in a black van trailed by numerous security vehicles.
He arrived at his mother's home in Yokohama roughly two hours later to a throng of reporters gathered outside her condominium, where he is expected to quarantine for two weeks.
The couple's wedding has been attracting a great deal of public and media attention, with many Japanese tabloid magazines and TV talk shows airing details about Komuro and his family. His arrival was broadcast live on TV.
Komuro left for New York in August 2018 to study at Fordham University's law school, from which he graduated with a Juris Doctor degree in May this year.
Their wedding has been postponed for about three years following a string of media reports about a dispute between Komuro's mother and a former fiance over 4 million yen ($36,000) in financial support, including money spent on Komuro's education.
In April, Komuro issued a statement seeking to correct what he called misunderstandings among the public about his mother's financial status.
Shortly after releasing the statement, Komuro offered to make a payment to his mother's former fiance in an effort to settle the money dispute. But there has been no progress in the case since then.
"If they love each other and want to get married, then I wish to congratulate them," said a 43-year-old woman from Chiba Prefecture who happened to be at Narita airport on Monday.
But another woman, 69, from Sapporo said Komuro "should ensure accountability before getting married," referring to the financial troubles of his family.
The Imperial Household Agency is planning to forgo the usual rites associated with imperial family members' weddings, such as an official engagement ceremony called "Nosai no Gi," and a "Choken no Gi" event to officially meet with the emperor and empress prior to marriage.
While female imperial family members traditionally receive a lump-sum payment of up to about 150 million yen upon their departure from the household, the agency will likely accept Princess Mako's unprecedented request that she not receive any such payment, government sources have said.
Under the current rules, female imperial family members lose their royal status upon marrying a commoner. The payment, which would be financed by taxpayers' money, is intended to maintain the dignity of former royal family members.
If the money is not gifted to Princess Mako, 29, the eldest daughter of Crown Prince Fumihito, it will be the first time in Japan's postwar history that a female imperial family member has not received such a payment upon marrying a commoner.
Since Japanese imperial family members do not have passports, the princess needs to first create a family registry with Komuro as an ordinary citizen before applying for her passport.
After submitting legal papers to register the marriage, the princess is expected to move from her imperial residence to a Tokyo condo while preparing for her new life in the United States.
Komuro and the princess met in 2012 as students at International Christian University in Tokyo and were unofficially engaged in September 2017.
Their wedding was initially scheduled to take place on Nov. 4, 2018, but the agency announced in February that year the postponement of ritual ceremonies related to their marriage following reports on the financial dispute.