By AJP, BBC World Service
The wedding will break new ground
On her final birthday as a member of the imperial family, Japan’s Princess Mako is set to tie the knot to a commoner.
The abdication of her father is part of Japan’s efforts to modernise and becoming a commoner is seen as a sign of a woman’s liberation.
But the move to wedding is not without its dangers.
The future princess already appears to have identified a minor security breach, saying someone tried to shoot her wedding dress on display in the exhibition room during a recent visit.
All eyes will be on Princess Mako to see whether her royal status has made her ready to move on.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has seen the benefits of an abdication. It clears the way for fresh faces to join the aristocracy, and a strong new generation of female leaders has emerged.
But male royals remain forced to wear traditional garb, and their wealth and status are protected by a conservative and patriarchal royal family system.
Consultations between the emperor and emperor’s family began in February with the aim of clearing up complicated aspects of the monarchy including its origins and relationships with government.
However, it is the end of an era when Crown Prince Naruhito is expected to abdicate at the end of the year.
It is part of a Japan where fatherhood, respect for tradition and women’s rights are accepted alongside modernising policies such as partial divorce and the marital choice of non-marriage.
Princess Mako is set to become the second person to marry a commoner in the imperial family after the abdication of her father in 2004.
Many commentators see the wedding as a milestone on the road to a greater opening up of the royal family.
But the importance of the act is not set in stone.
Previous abdications have triggered protests from traditionalists.
For those reasons, the Royal Household Agency, which administers the royal family, is keen to make it clear that the decision to marry is up to the individual and not an endorsement of change.