The Japanese princess who is choosing love over royalty has Canadian connections.
Princess Ayako, the youngest child of Princess Hisako and the late Prince Takamado, is engaged to Kei Moriya, a 32-year-old commoner who works for the shipping firm NYK Line. Their marriage, which will take place at Tokyo's Meiji Jingu Shrine on Oct. 29, means the princess will have to forfeit her title.
While many people on social media are applauding Ayako for following her heart, Canadians are particularly pleased for the princess, who charmed her way into our hearts long before she met her future husband.
Ayako attended Camosun College in Victoria, B.C. from 2013 to 2015 for its English Language Development program, after graduating from Camosun's sister school, Josai International University in Japan.
Following her studies at Camosun, Ayako completed a month of research work at the University of British Columbia and worked towards her master's degree in social work at Josai International.
According to the Times Colonist, Ayako had a fairly regular college experience while studying in Canada, despite "subtle security measures."
In an email interview with HuffPost Canada, Geoff Wilmshurst, Camosun's vice-president of partnerships who also hosted the princess during her time in B.C., said, "Ayako was a very good and active student at Camosun and was engaged with a student group called Peer Connections."
The 27-year-old princess was also a stage manager for the school's annual talent show, and became a master at navigating Victoria's transit system, despite getting lost on her first day.
"Today, if you ever need directions on how to use the bus system in Victoria, Princess Ayako is the person to talk to," Wilmshurst told the Times Colonist last year.
Ayako isn't the first Japanese royal to study in Canada. Her late father, Prince Takamado — who is known in Japan as "Canada's Prince" — studied at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. "to master the English language and understand Canadian culture."
After three years abroad, the late prince returned to Japan in 1981 and became a patron of the Canada-Japan Society, where he worked to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
Although Ayako has chosen to give up her royal title and duties to marry for love, she is still following in her father's footsteps and carrying on his legacy. The princess is an honorary patron of the Canada-Japan Society, and in July 2017, Camosun College presented her with the President's Award for International Partnership, which acknowledged her contribution to deepening the bond between Canada and Japan.
"We're happy that Princess Ayako had a good experience here and that Victoria has become a second home," Camosun College president, Sherri Bell, said at the time.
In an email to HuffPost Canada, Wilmshurst added, "My wife Branka and I enjoyed hosting in [our] home and we regard her as a member of our family. We are looking forward to hosting her and her new husband in Victoria after they are married."
According to the Times Colonist, Ayako is very fond of Victoria and has even called it "No. 1." Last year, before the princess met her future husband, the site noted that Ayako seemed "keen" on the idea of honeymooning in the Canadian city.
Ayako is the second Japanese royal to announce she's giving up her status for love. Last year, Princess Mako, the eldest child of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, revealed she planned to marry law firm employee Kei Komuro. Their nuptials have been postponed to "at least 2020," CNN reports.