TOKYO -- Japan's Crown Prince Akishino has approved of the long-delayed marriage of his eldest daughter, Princess Mako, to former college classmate Kei Komuro, saying that he respects the wishes of the young couple.
"If they truly want it, then I should respect that as her parent," said Akishino, who turns 55 on Monday, in a news conference ahead of his birthday. At the same time, he said the couple has not done enough to create a "situation where many people would congratulate them."
The couple postponed their formal engagement in February 2018 after reports of financial trouble involving Komuro's mother and her former fiance.
In explaining the couple's decision, Mako cited "a lack of time to make sufficient preparations" before the rites surrounding Emperor Naruhito's accession to the throne. The crown prince and his wife expressed reservations about the match at that time.
In a sign that the crown prince has dropped his objection, Mako issued a formal statement earlier this month saying the marriage was a "necessary choice for us to live while protecting our feelings." A representative of the Imperial Household Agency, which released the note, explained at the time that Akishino and his wife "respect" the couple's feelings about the marriage.
In the news conference, Akishino noted that Article 24 of Japan's constitution states that "marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes" and said that "I cannot say otherwise."
Shortly after the tentative engagement of Mako and Komuro was announced in 2017, reports of the financial problems in Komuro's family filled weekly magazines.
In a November 2018 news conference, Akishino said that if the two want to marry, "there should be an appropriate response" to the issue that made headlines.
The betrothal rite "cannot take place unless many people can accept and celebrate" it, he said.
At the latest news conference, Akishino asserted that this is still not the case, arguing that there must be action "in a visible form" to win over the public.
Asked about the coronavirus pandemic, the crown prince noted its wide-ranging effects on health care, the economy and education. "I'm concerned about the many people in various industries and occupations who are going through trying times," he said, and gave special acknowledgment to medical workers.
Under these circumstances, the Imperial family's role is to "show as much understanding and sympathy as possible to people involved in difficult situations, and to the people who support them," the crown prince said.
Since the outbreak began, Akishino and his family have actively made use of the internet in their official duties. The crown prince himself has done so more than 50 times, to hear from experts and communicate with people involved in events the virus kept him from attending in person.
"It's quite convenient to be able to communicate while seeing each other's faces," he said.