Japan’s Former Princess Mako Is Reported to Be Volunteering in the Met’s Asian Art Department

She contributed an essay on a hanging scroll by Yamada Shinzan to the museum's website.

Japanese Princess Mako looks at paintings inside Cusco's cathedral, in Peru, on July 14, 2019. Photo by Juan Sequeiros Fuentes/AFP via Getty Images.
Japanese Princess Mako looks at paintings inside Cusco's cathedral, in Peru, on July 14, 2019. Photo by Juan Sequeiros Fuentes/AFP via Getty Images.

Japan’s former Princess Mako, who renounced her royal title to marry her college sweetheart, is reportedly volunteering at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in her new home of New York—a role that is sure to be relatable to millennials who have toiled away at unpaid internships in a bid to crack into the city’s elite art scene.

Mako Komuro, as the former princess became known when she married Kei Komuro in October, completed a master’s degree in art museum and gallery studies at the University of Leicester in the U.K. When she announced plans to move to New York, where Komuro finished a law degree at Fordham University in 2021, the local art world immediately began speculating about where she might seek a job.

In Japan, Mako worked for five years as a special researcher at the University Museum of the University of Tokyo. Her role at the Met is unpaid, according to the Japan Times. She is reportedly working with the Asian art department on an exhibition of hanging scrolls inspired by Ippen, a traveling monk who helped spread Buddhism throughout Japan during the 13th century.

“She’s qualified and probably handling pieces in the collection. In general, it’s work which requires a great deal of preparation and often means spending a lot of time in the library,” a former Met curator told People.

Japan's former Princess Mako, now Mako Komuro, and her husband Kei Komuro leave JFK International Airport in New York on November 14, 2021, following their arrival from Tokyo. Photo by Japan Pool/JIJI Press/AFP/ Japan Out via Getty Images.

Japan’s former Princess Mako, now Mako Komuro, and her husband Kei Komuro leave JFK International Airport in New York on November 14, 2021, following their arrival from Tokyo. Photo: Japan Pool/JIJI Press/AFP/Japan Out via Getty Images.

The Met’s website features a catalogue essay Mako wrote about a mid-20th-century hanging scroll titled Monk Ippen Giving a Warrior the Tonsure and His Wife as a Lay Buddhist Nun by Yamada Shinzan. The text was adapted by John T. Carpenter, the museum’s curator of Japanese art.

Mako met Komuro at International Christian University in Tokyo, at a 2012 meeting for students interested in study-abroad programs. A niece of Emperor Naruhito, Mako was the first member of the imperial family to study there; Japanese royals traditionally go to Gakushuin University.

The Japanese press has been highly critical of the former princess’s relationship with Komuro because of a financial dispute between his mother and an ex-boyfriend. Concerns that Komuro was after the royal fortune likely influenced Mako’s decision to forgo the customary $1.3 million government-funded dowry women in Japanese imperial family receive upon marriage to a commoner, when they must give up their royal status and titles.

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her husband Kei Komuro pose during a press conference to announce their marriage in Tokyo, Japan on October 26, 2021. (Photo by SIPA Press/Nicolas Datiche/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her husband, Kei Komuro, pose during a press conference to announce their marriage in Tokyo, Japan on October 26, 2021. Photo: SIPA Press/Nicolas Datiche/Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The couple had a simple courthouse wedding, followed by a press conference where they declared their love and commitment. In New York, they are believed to be living in a one-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, in a luxury building with numerous amenities.

After years of negative press attention, Mako was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Imperial Household Agency. Komuro, who is working at New York’s Lowenstein Sandler law firm, took the New York State Bar for a second time in February, and is still awaiting word of his results. First-year associates at the firm made $205,000 a year as of 2021, which presumably is part of the reason Mako can afford to work for free.

Another high-profile royal, Princess Eugenie, granddaughter of the U.K.’s Queen Elizabeth, is a director at Hauser and Wirth gallery in London.


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