Boy, 7, Left in Woods by Parents as a Punishment Found Alive, a Week After Going Missing
A child reportedly abandoned in a bear-infested forest by his parents as a punishment has been found alive after nearly a week in the dense Japanese wilderness, according to reports.
Yamato Tanooka, 7, was found inside a military barracks for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) near Shikabe in northern Hokkaido, about two-and-a-half miles from where his parents left him for misbehaving six nights earlier, reports said.
Little Yamato survived freezing temperatures at night and heavy rainfall wearing only a t-shirt and jeans, and suffered only minor scrapes and a low body temperature, the Guardian reported.
He was taken to a hospital to be kept overnight, authorities said.
“He was incredibly calm considering he had been missing for seven days,” a doctor who assessed Yamato told reporters. “He didn’t panic at all.”
Yamato’s parents made him get out of their car on a mountain road because he was throwing stones at cars and people, Hokkaido Prefectural Police said.
When they went back to the spot where they left him, the boy was gone.
The parents originally told police their son had gotten lost while they were out hiking to gather wild vegetables, but later told the truth about the circumstances of his disappearance.
"I couldn't bring myself to make the request [for the search] and give the reason [for him being missing] as it is because of a punishment," the boy’s father, Takayuki Tanooka, told reporters in Japanese.
A SDF official was on a drill when he found the child in the one-story hut without heat, authorities said. He was curled up on a mattress when he was found.
“He looked well and didn’t appear to have lost any weight. He’s safe – that’s the most important thing. I’m so relieved,” a tearful Takayuki Tanooka told TV Asahi.
More than 180 rescuers had been searching for Yamato, with the military joining the search on Wednesday.
The boy’s dad apologized after his son was found, saying: “My excessive act caused my son to have a painful time. I deeply apologize to people at his school, people in the rescue operation, and everybody for causing them trouble.”
He also thanked the search crews for their work in bringing Yamato home.
"I have poured all my love into my son, but from now on, I would want to do more, together with him," Takayuki Tanooka said. "I would like to protect him while he grows up."