Last Tuesday, former Princess Mako and her fiancé, New York lawyer Kei Komuro, officially registered their marriage. The couple had announced their engagement all the way back in 2017, but the lengthy delay before tying the knot wasn’t the result of arduous meetings with wedding planners to make sure every little thing was just right for the ceremony and reception, but rather part of an ongoing controversy over the appropriateness of the match.
Many non-Japanese-language reports make mention of Komuro being a “commoner,” but for members of Japan’s imperial family in the modern era, marrying a commoner is their only option, as Japan has no other remaining families of official aristocratic status. However, under Japan’s Imperial House Law, a female member of the imperial household is considered to leave the royal family and enter her husband’s upon marriage, thus losing her own royal status. But while Mako marrying a commoner was a foregone conclusion, whenever a member of the imperial family announces marriage plans there’s an intense scrutiny, generally from members of Japan’s far right wing, of their partner’s perceived worthiness to be associated in any way with the emperor’s family.
The major criticism of Komuro stems from a financial dispute between his mother and her former fiancé, in which the fiancé claims he was never repaid a loan he made to her of four million yen. The mother claims the money was given to her as a gift, but Komuro has since issued a detailed document outlining a process to pay the money back. Komuro previously sporting a non-traditional ponytail (which he cut before meeting with the emperor and empress) also irritated his critics, and odds are Mako’s intention to leave Japan and relocate to the U.S. aren’t sitting well with hardline traditionalists either.
With the grumbling still persisting four years after their getting engaged, Mako and Komuro forwent any publicized royal wedding, and an announcement was made that they would simply be turning in their marriage registration form on Tuesday morning, then holding a press conference to address the situation that afternoon at a hotel in Tokyo. Naturally, camera crews from just about every TV broadcaster in the city showed up, with one exception. Instead of broadcasting the press conference live, like pretty much of all of their competitors were doing, TV Tokyo chose to continue with its plans to show "Blade."
▼ The Tuesday afternoon broadcast feeds from NHK, Nippon TV, TV Asahi, TBS, Fuji TV and TV Tokyo
▼ "Blade" (as though anyone could forget)
Yes, at the same time as Mako and Komuro were standing in front of the nation to thank those who supported them, apologize to those they’d distressed, and ask people to refrain from libelous comments, viewers had the option to tune out from all the drama of two consenting 30-year-old adults being pressured into explaining how and why they wanted to be married, and instead tune in to the action of the 1998 Wesley Snipes vampire-hunting film.
This actually isn’t the first time TV Tokyo has chose to let other networks fight with one another for attention over the same story and instead offer something completely different. Though it’s obviously based in Tokyo, TV Tokyo is technically a regional broadcaster, with a smaller budget than the many national stations that are also headquartered in the city. Rather than try to compete with its wealthier and better-equipped rivals when a “big” story is breaking, TV Tokyo is often content just to keep doing its own thing, and many online commenters were happy to have "Blade" as an alternative to what they saw as the latest round of unfair treatment of Mako and her new husband.
“That’s the TV Tokyo we know and love.”
“I love TV Tokyo’s sense of commitment.”
“Trust in Blade.”
“Everyone else is showing the press conference live and following it with hot-take studio commentary, but TV Tokyo stays the course.”
“They really do things their own way!”
However, skipping the press conference wasn’t just a cagey business decision. At his own regularly scheduled press conference following the "Blade" broadcast, TV Tokyo president and CEO Ichiro Ishikawa was asked if there had been any consideration given to broadcasting Mako’s press conference or putting together a special program to analyze it. Ishikawa smiled and responded with:
“I really can’t understand why so many people are concerning themselves with the situation…We would cover the story as part of our regular news programming. My hope is that Mako-san and Komuro-san can now live the rest of their lives happily together. Nothing more or less than that.”
Sources: Livedoor News/Nikkan Sports via Hachima Kiko, Nikkei Asia, Twitter
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