Three-quarters of the public feels positive about Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 last year, a survey shows.
In the mail-in survey by Kyodo News that covered around 3,000 people 18 and older, 58 percent said they felt an affinity for the emperor, higher than the 48 percent logged for former Emperor Akihito, his father, in a December 1989 interview survey about a year after his enthronement.
With another 17 percent describing him as “wonderful,” a total of 75 percent of the respondents felt positive about the 60-year-old monarch.
The survey, conducted since March, drew 2,003 responses by April 10, of which 1,899 were treated as valid.
The poll also found that 85 percent would accept a female monarch and 79 percent an emperor descended from a female member of the imperial family, despite a law that limits succession to men from the paternal line.
Asked in a multiple-choice question about what they hoped the emperor would do, 56 percent said build international friendships, with 58 percent saying the same for Empress Masako, 56, a former diplomat educated at Harvard and Oxford universities. Respondents also listed visits to disaster-hit areas to console those affected.
A total of 75 percent said they were interested in the imperial family either to some extent or a great extent, while 21 percent said they were not very interested and 4 percent said they had no interest.
With the abdication of Emperor Akihito, 86, on April 30 last year, the imperial family now has only three heirs — the emperor’s younger brother Crown Prince Fumihito, 54, his son Prince Hisahito, 13, and Prince Hitachi, 84, the uncle of the emperor.
Emperor Naruhito also has a daughter — 18-year-old Princess Aiko — and there are other females from the family, but the Imperial House Law requires that women abandon their imperial status after marrying commoners.
The government was set to kick off a full debate on how to achieve sustainable succession in the dwindling imperial family after Crown Prince Fumihito is formally designated first in line to the throne in the ceremonies known as Rikkoshi no rei, which were originally scheduled to be held earlier this month. The rites have were postponed due to the coronavirus.
Given the big divide between supporters of a female monarch or matrilineal emperor and conservatives who want to continue limiting succession to men in the paternal line, it remains uncertain when the government will be able to reach a conclusion on the issue.
In November, a conservative group in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party proposed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that unmarried men in the now-abolished collateral branches of the imperial family be reinstated.
The latest Kyodo survey showed 70 percent opposed the proposal, however, with most saying that permitting females to become heirs would suffice.
In a multiple-choice question, 72 percent said the government should discuss having female monarchs, and 40 percent said emperors from the maternal line should be considered, while 18 percent called for discussing the reinstatement of members of the 11 collateral branches that left the imperial family in 1947.
Abe has said giving imperial family status to the now-defunct collateral branch members should be considered an option for sustaining imperial succession.
Emperor Naruhito completed a slew of ceremonies in December that accompanied his succession to the throne, including the Daijosai, a Shinto thanksgiving ceremony that was criticized by some as violating the principle of separation of state and religion.
In the survey, 72 percent viewed the ceremonies as appropriate but 12 percent said religious elements should have been eliminated and 10 percent said the ceremonies were unnecessary.