Three-quarters of Japanese people responding to a Kyodo News survey feel positive about Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1 last year.

In the mail-in survey that covered around 3,000 people aged 18 and older, 58 percent of respondents said they felt an affinity for Emperor Naruhito, higher than the 48 percent recorded for Emperor Akihito, the current emperor's father, in an interview survey in December 1989 about a year after his enthronement.

With another 17 percent stating they view him as "wonderful," a total of 75 percent of respondents felt positive about the 60-year-old emperor.

The survey, conducted since March, drew 2,003 responses by April 10, of which 1,899 were treated as valid -- a response rate of 63.3 percent.

The poll also found that 85 percent of respondents would accept a female monarch and 79 percent would accept an emperor descended from a female member of the imperial family, despite the country's law currently limiting 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, and 58 percent said the same for Empress Masako, 56, a former diplomat educated at Harvard and Oxford universities, while visiting disaster-hit areas to console those affected was also cited.

A total of 75 percent said they were interested in the imperial family to some 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 former 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 has a daughter -- 18-year-old Princess Aiko -- and there are other females in the family, but the Imperial House Law requires women to abandon their imperial status after marrying commoners.

The government was set to start full debate on how to achieve a sustainable succession in the dwindling imperial family after Crown Prince Fumihito is formally announced as first in line to the throne in ceremonies known as "Rikkoshi no rei," which were originally scheduled to be held earlier this month.

But the rites have been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and how soon the government will be able to reach a conclusion remains uncertain, with a big divide between supporters of a female monarch or matrilineal emperor shown in public opinion polls and conservatives who want to continue limiting succession to men in the paternal line.

In November, a conservative grouping 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 allowing female members 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 the imperial succession.

Emperor Naruhito completed a slew of ceremonies accompanying his succession to the throne in December, including "Daijosai," a Shinto thanksgiving ceremony that has been criticized by some as going against the principle of separation of state and religion.

In the survey, 72 percent viewed the ceremonies as appropriate, while 12 percent said religious elements should have been eliminated and 10 percent said such ceremonies were unnecessary.

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