Japan princess weds at Tokyo hotel

Princess Sayako, the only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito, wed a commoner in a private ceremony at a Tokyo hotel on Tuesday, in the process abandoning her privileged status as a member of the imperial family.

Sayako, 36, wearing a simple, full-length white dress and pearls, followed several steps behind the groom, Yoshiki Kuroda, 40, into a sparsely decorated room where the traditional Shinto wedding ceremony was held.

The couple were greeted by a Shinto priest dressed in white silk robes and about 30 close relatives attended, including the emperor and empress.

Rather than exchanging wedding rings, the half-hour ritual centered on the sipping cups of sake rice wine.

Marriage to Kuroda, an urban planner, means Sayako relinquishes her title, swapping the grandeur of the Imperial Palace for an ordinary Tokyo apartment, and trading official duties for housework and the supermarket run.

Sayako may be the last princess to leave the royal family if the government enacts proposed legal changes that would give women the same right as men to inherit the throne and to retain their titles on marriage.

The reserved princess, whose hobbies include birdwatching and traditional Japanese dance, wrote of feeling "lonely" about leaving the palace following a stilted farewell ceremony with her parents at the weekend.

Sayako's sister-in-law, Crown Princess Masako, found the opposite transition -- from commoner to princess -- so stressful that she had to take more than a year's break from public duties, only returning to the public eye in the past few months.

A smiling Masako, 41, attended the wedding in a pale floor-length gown with high collar and diamond jewelry.

A hint of the culture shock awaiting Sayako was revealed in an exchange with a lady-in-waiting quoted by one newspaper. I.L.

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