Princess Noriko plans to wed priest's son

Princess Noriko, second daughter of Princess Hisako of Takamado, has become informally engaged to the eldest son of the chief priest of Izumo Taisha grand shrine in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, the Imperial Household Agency announced Tuesday.

Princess Noriko, 25, is a granddaughter of Prince Mikasa, 98, who is an uncle of the Emperor; she is also a great granddaughter of Emperor Taisho.

The engagement between Princess Noriko and Kunimaro Senge, 40, will become formal after "Nosai no gi," a traditional rite of betrothal, scheduled for July. The wedding will be held in Izumo Taisha around October, according to the agency.

On Tuesday morning, Princess Noriko and her mother, Princess Hisako, 60, met the Emperor and Empress at the Imperial Palace and reported the unofficial engagement to them.

"I'm happy that I can now announce our planned engagement after receiving permission from the Emperor," Princess Noriko said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. She said the Emperor and Empress gave her "warm words," which she will refrain from making public.

Asked what impression her fiance made on her, she said: "He is generous and sincere. I hope we will have a cheerful and happy family."

Senge said: "She is warmhearted and kind. We want to build a home of endless smiles."

Princess Noriko was born on July 22, 1988, the second daughter of the late Prince Takamado and Princess Hisako. She studied at Gakushuin Primary School, Gakushuin Girls' Junior & Senior High School and Gakushuin University. During her middle and high school days, she actively engaged in theatre activities. At university, she majored in psychology and has served in official duties of the Imperial Household since graduation.

Watching ballet and theatre, and listening to music are among her favourite pastimes. She has two sisters-Princess Tsuguko, 28 and Princess Ayako, 23. Her father, Prince Takamado, died in November 2002 when she was 14.

Senge was born on Sept. 2, 1973, the eldest son of Takamasa Senge, the 71-year-old chief priest of Izumo Taisha, and his wife Ayako, 64.

The Senge family has been in charge of rituals at the shrine for generations. Senge studied Shinto at Kokugakuin University and has served as a priest at multiple shrines, including Iwashimizu Hachimangu shrine in Kyoto, after graduating from university.

He is currently holds the position of "negi" senior priest at Izumo Taisha. He takes photographs as a hobby.