Japanese Princess Ayako marries commoner at shrine ceremony

TOKYO: Japan's Princess Ayako married a commoner in a ritual-filled ceremony Monday at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine. 

Ayako and groom Kei Moriya were shown on national news walking slowly before guests at the shrine. 

The wedding took place in one of the pagoda-like buildings in the shrine complex and included an exchange of rings and a sharing of a cup of sake, according to Japanese media.

 Both rituals are relatively routine for Shinto-style weddings, including those of regular Japanese. 

Ayako, 28, is the daughter of the emperor's cousin, and Moriya, 32, works for major shipping company Nippon Yusen. 

 She wore a Heian-era style hairdo, which is swept back into a ponytail, and a traditional robe splashed with red and green patterns, while Moriya wore coattails. 

Women who marry into the imperial family become members of the family, but those who marry commoners, like Ayako, must leave.

 Ayako bid farewell to Emperor Akihito last week, appearing before him wearing a tiara and a pale Western-style gown. 

The eldest granddaughter of the emperor is set to marry a commoner in 2020. Akihito has said he will abdicate. 

His eldest son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1.

 Ayako and Moriya announced their wedding plans earlier this year. 

They met because their mothers were friends, and hit it off immediately, they said.

 "It didn't feel as though we had met for the first time," Ayako told reporters at their engagement. 

Moriya said he had been attracted to her gentle spirit. 

"And I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her," he said. 

Ayako's father, Prince Takamado, who was active in supporting Japanese soccer, died in 2002.

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