Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the weekly magazines’ pursuit of royal scandal for the hell of it. The point I was trying to make, and which wasn’t really reflected in the headline, is that while the weeklies buck the Imperial Household Agency simply because they can, at bottom they support the conventional idea of the royal family. Kei Komuro is portrayed as a kind of interloper, despite the fact that he appears to be an intelligent, responsible person who truly loves Princess Mako. If he and the princess had been “matched” through more traditional means, the weeklies likely wouldn’t have said much of anything, even if his mother were in debt (though an omiai would have implied vetting that might have disqualified him in the first place). The weeklies didn’t have problems with the matches made for Princess Ayako or her older sister, though they seem delighted now that the sister’s marriage has hit the skids. Likewise, former Princess Sayako’s marriage may be less that perfect, they imply, but in any case, this is all after the fact, meaning after the marriage has taken place and the women have left the royal family.
In fact, the rule that says women must leave the royal family after wedding commoners is one of the reasons the IHA has pushed Mako and Komuro to put off their engagement. The weeklies want to make it about the IHA and Mako’s father objecting to Komuro as husband material, but likely it has more to do with bureaucratic convenience. A survey by broadcaster JNN in January found that 71 percent of the public said that they would accept a royal family “based on female members,” meaning that the female line could produce heirs who may one day become emperors–or even empresses. The IHA and the government is pondering allowing female members who marry outside the royal family to stay in it, but they have their hands full with next year’s abdication of the present emperor and the succession of his son, so they don’t have time to discuss the female line until that’s over with. This affects Mako and Komuro’s engagement, because if they decide to allow her to remain in the royal family after they marry, it might be to their advantage. The royal family has become quite small since not too many male heirs have been produced. With every female member who marries a commoner (and who else are they going to marry after the peerage was abolished following World War II?) the royal family loses a valuable employee, because only family members can credibly carry out the “activities” (komu) expected of the royal family. It’s a human resources problem. The IHA probably wants Mako to stay, but if the weeklies are raising questions about her intended partner, they may want to put off any developments in that direction until the public’s presumed concern for Komuro’s fitness as the partner of a royal has cooled. If that’s making way too much of the matter, well, that’s the nature of any office whose job is to rationalize the existence of a monarchy.