TOKYO (CNN) - Japan's Princess Mako and her commoner fiance Kei Komuro have postponed their highly anticipated engagement and wedding until at least 2020, saying they were not yet ready for marriage.
The wedding, which had been set for November, was to be a momentous occasion for the country and the Japanese royal family, led by Emperor Akihito, who plans to abdicate in April 2019.
But the couple said they were now having second thoughts about marrying so soon. "It is because of our immaturity and we just regret it," the couple said in a statement Tuesday.
Excitement swept the country when the Imperial Household announced last year that plans were underway for the princess to marry a commoner she'd met five years previously at International Christian University in Tokyo.
Before his introduction as the royal fiance, Komuro was better known as the "Prince of the Sea," after appearing in a beach tourism campaign for the city of Fujisawa, south of the capital.
In the statement, Mako, 26, said they had "rushed various things" and needed more time to plan their future together. Komuro also is 26.
"I wish to think about marriage more deeply and concretely and give sufficient time to prepare our marriage and for after the marriage," Mako said.
The couple had planned to become formally engaged in a traditional ceremony on March 4, ahead of their wedding on November 4.
Imperial Household sources told CNN the postponement was due to "lack of preparation."
Princess Mako "came to recognize the lack of time to make sufficient preparations," the household said.
The princess had told her grandparents, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, about the postponement, who are said to have shown respect for her decision.
"We feel extremely sorry for causing great trouble and further burden to those who have willingly supported us," Mako said in the statement.
Under centuries-old Japanese law, the marriage would require Princess Mako to give up her royal status. The last royal to do so was her aunt, Sayako, the only daughter of Emperor Akihito, when she married town planner Yoshiki Kuroda in 2005.
Imperial law allows the throne to be passed only to male heirs, of which there are only three: Crown Prince Naruhito, his younger brother Crown Prince Akishino, and Akishino's son, Prince Hisahito.
Naruhito is set to succeed his father on May 1, 2019, becoming the 126th Emperor to ascend to Japan's Chrysanthemum Throne.
In addition to Princess Mako, there are six other unmarried princesses. They would, too, lose their royal status if they were to marry commoners, a possibility that could leave the imperial family without enough members to carry out its public duties.
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