Kei Komuro leaves his home on the morning of May 17. (Video taken by Hirohisa Yamashita)

Princess Mako is making preparations for her engagement with her former classmate at International Christian University in Tokyo.

The news on May 16 was praised by friends and former colleagues who have watched their budding romance blossom over the years.

The eldest daughter of Prince Fumihito, Mako, 25, will become the first of Emperor Akihito’s four grandchildren to become engaged.

Kei Komuro, 25, Mako’s fiance-to-be, met reporters in front of his workplace in Tokyo on May 17.

He said he had talked with Mako that morning on the phone.

“I said, ‘Ittekimasu' (I am going to work) and she replied, ‘Itterasshai' (Take care),” he said with a smile.

Komuro, a resident of Yokohama, is working at a legal office as well as studying business law at the Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy.

When asked to share how he felt and what attracted him to Mako, smiling again, he said: “I will speak about them at an appropriate time.”

Shinichiro Yamamoto, grand steward of the Imperial Household Agency, confirmed Mako's engagement plan on May 16.

“We have proceeded with a plan to announce (the engagement) at an appropriate time," he said. "The official day of her engagement has yet to be decided.”

Fumihito and his wife, Princess Kiko, have received reports from Mako about Komuro and have approved their dating, sources said.

According to the sources, Mako and Komuro became acquainted at an opinion-exchange meeting on overseas study at a restaurant in Tokyo’s Shibuya district about five years ago.

They have since been dating in such locations as Yokohama, Hayama, also in Kanagawa Prefecture, and Nagatoro, Saitama Prefecture.

Akihito and Empress Michiko also are aware that Mako is making preparations for her engagement, the sources said.

FRIENDS TELL OF COURTSHIP

Some friends and former colleagues shared memories of Mako and Komuro’s courtship years on May 16.

A former male classmate of the couple said he remembered Mako saying several years ago that she was considering marriage with Komuro.

The 24-year-old also recalled seeing Mako and Komuro happily eating together at a university cafeteria.

“Komuro is a calm and serious person,” he said. “As both Mako and Komuro are considerate of each other and have kind personalities, they will pair well.”

According to another former classmate, a 25-year-old woman who was friendly with Mako, it was known among their classmates and friends that Mako and Komuro were dating.

“They were quietly watching them,” she recalled.

Sharing her thoughts when she heard the news on Mako’s preparations for her engagement, she said, “I was pleased with it, thinking that their dating has progressed favorably.”

In the summer of 2010, Komuro was chosen as a “prince of the sea of Shonan-Enoshima (district)” in a contest held in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture.

It followed that he became involved in PR activities for Fujisawa city for a year.

Four others also carried out activities as “prince of the sea” or “queen of the sea” during the period.

One of them, Genki Kashiwagi, 26, a company employee now living in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, said: “Komuro was polite and always smiling. He was the kind of man who is liked by both men and women.”

Komuro lived overseas when he was a child and is fluent in English. After returning to Japan, he studied at an international school and then advanced to International Christian University.

“He was saying that he wants to be involved in diplomacy in the future,” Kashiwagi recalled.

Yuko Arakawa, 24, a company employee in Yokohama, recalled the days when she and Komuro worked together part time at a French restaurant near Komuro’s house for three years.

In those days, Komuro told her about Mako. “She is studying in the same university as I am. She is a very kind and nice girl,” Arakawa said Komuro told her.

According to the Imperial Household Agency, Komuro is living with his mother and grandfather. His father is deceased.