Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro,
Princess Mako, the elder daughter of Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, and her fiancee Kei Komuro, a university friend of Princess Mako, smile during a press conference to announce their engagement at Akasaka East Residence in Tokyo, Japan, September 3, 2017. Reuters/Shizuo Kambayashi/Pool

Princess Mako of Japan has officially announced her engagement to a commoner, which means she will lose her royal status according to the country’s monarchy laws. The 25-year-old granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be marrying Kei Komuro, her classmate at the International Christian University.

The two met during their freshman year and became close in 2012 when they took part in an orientation session for study abroad programs. They started dating before they attended different universities as part of the exchange program. The princess attended the University of Edinburgh, while Komuro, 25, attended the University of California.

Komuro said they kept in touch even though they were physically far from each other. The experience even “deepened our relationship,” he told reporters in Tokyo on Sunday (via Japan Times). He proposed in December 2013, telling her, “Let’s get married in the future.”

The Imperial House Law states that female members of the Imperial family must renounce their royal status upon marriage to a commoner. The law does not apply to male members of the royal family. This means Princess Mako, the daughter of Fumihito, Prince Akishino, and Kiko, Princess Akishino, will have to relinquish her royal status and be registered as an ordinary citizen following her marriage to Komuro.

Princess Mako said she had been preparing for the change of her rank since she was little. “I was aware since my childhood that I’ll leave a royal status once I marry,” she said, adding that she felt “really happy” with her engagement. “While I worked to help the emperor and fulfil duties as a royal family member as much as I can, I’ve been cherishing my own life.”

Mako graduated from ICU in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Art and Cultural Heritage. She also received a Master’s degree in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester in 2016. She currently works as a researcher at a museum at the University of Tokyo.

Komuro was dubbed as the “Prince of the Sea” in 2010 while serving as a tourism promoter for the city of Fujisawa. He now works at a law firm and is still studying business law at the Hitotsubashi University’s gradual school.

The Imperial Household Agency first said there were plans underway for the couple’s engagement. They announcement was originally planned for July, but they decided to postpone it following the heavy rains and flooding in northern Kyushu that month.

Their engagement will become official in Imperial terms after Komuro’s messenger visited the princess’ Imperial residence with gifts. This is called the traditional rite of betrothal called Nosai no Gi. Komuro and Mako will have to go through several more rites until the wedding, which will be 2018, the same year as her grandfather will relinquish the throne.

Princess Mako of Akishino is the eldest granddaughter of Emperor Akihito from his second son, Prince Akishino. Once she relinquishes her royal status, the Imperial family to just 18 members, already including the emperor. Her younger brother, Prince Hisahito, is the third in line to the throne after their uncle, Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan, and their father.