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Princess Kako of Japan leaves home to study at Leeds University

The 22-year-old princess will spend a year in the UK as an exchange student

by Ainhoa Barcelona

Princess Kako of Japan has left home and is on her way to the UK, where she will study at the University of Leeds. The 22-year-old princess, who is the granddaughter of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will spend a year as an exchange student. She will study performing arts and psychology, the Imperial Household Agency said, and her credits will count towards her university degree at home.

Kako departed from Haneda airport in Tokyo on a commercial flight bound for London, after which she will travel up north to Leeds. Like most students, the princess will stay in a student dormitory. She will have plenty of time to settle in before the university term officially starts on Monday 25 September.

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Princess Kako will spend a year in the UK as an exchange student

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Back home, Kako is a student at the International Christian University in Tokyo. Her decision to spend a year abroad in the UK may not come as a surprise to royal watchers; her older sister Princess Mako, 25, completed her Master's degree in museum studies at the University of Leicester in 2016. Mako also studied art history at the University of Edinburgh from September 2012 to May 2013.

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Kako and her older sister Princess Mako

It's an exciting time for the princess. Earlier this month, she announced her engagement to Kei Komuro, a former university classmate. Her marriage to Kei means that the princess will lose her royal status; under Japanese law, female imperial family members forfeit their status upon marriage to a commoner, whereas male members do not.

In a press conference, Mako said she was first attracted to Kei's "smile like the sun". She said: "I was aware since my childhood that I'll leave my royal status once I marry. 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." Kei, 25, works at a law firm, while Mako is pursuing a doctorate and works as a museum researcher.

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