Japan's New Emperor Naruhito Starts Reign at 83% Approval Rating

(Bloomberg) -- About four in five Japanese citizens feel a close connection with Naruhito, the new emperor of the Chrysanthemum Throne, a survey showed a day after the 59-year-old ascended to the world’s oldest monarchy.

A similar number — 80 percent — also support the ascension of a female emperor, according to the poll released by Kyodo News on Thursday.

Japan's New Emperor Naruhito Starts Reign at 83% Approval Rating

The numbers underscore how enduringly popular the monarchy remains in Japan, where the emperor has few powers and serves as a national symbol under the constitution. The streets around Tokyo’s Imperial Palace were filled with people looking to get a glimpse of the new emperor on Wednesday as he traveled to and from royal ceremonies. Naruhito and Empress Masako have only one daughter, Princess Aiko; when she was born in 2001, there was brief talk of changing the law that allows only men to ascend the throne.

That debate ended in 2006 when Prince Akishino, Naruhito’s brother and the new crown prince, fathered a son, Hisahito, who is now second in line to the throne. When national broadcaster NHK conducted a survey in 2009, 77 percent of the public supported female imperial succession.

Members of the public will be allowed into the grounds of the palace on Saturday to see the new imperial couple and other members of the family wave from a balcony.

Japan's New Emperor Naruhito Starts Reign at 83% Approval Rating

Earlier this week, Akihito stepped down to make way for his son in the country’s first abdication since 1817. When the 85-year-old emperor expressed his wish to step down in August 2016 due to health concerns, an NHK poll in 2016 showed he enjoyed a 74 percent approval rating. During his three-decade reign, Akihito made unprecedented apologies for Japan’s wartime aggression, helping to ease tensions with neighbors China and South Korea, and often visited evacuees after earthquakes and disasters.

The Kyodo News survey, conducted May 1 to 2, also showed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approval at 52 percent, down about 1 percentage point from the prior poll in April. His disapproval rating also edged down by about 1 percentage point to 32 percent, Kyodo said.

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