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Japanese Boy Missing Nearly a Week Found Safe

  • VOA News

This undated handout picture provided by an elementary school of Hokuto city shows Yamato Tanooka.

A seven-year-old Japanese boy who was abandoned by his parents in a forest last week has been found.

Yamato Tanooka was discovered by chance Friday in a military hut by a soldier who was not part of the massive search party that had been looking for the youngster.

Officials say the boy is in good condition and devoured rice cakes the soldier offered him.

Yamato told authorities he walked the several kilometers to the empty hut in a military drill area. He said the door was unlocked and water from a faucet outside the hut was his only source of nourishment. He kept warm, he said, by sleeping between mattresses in the hut.

The boy's father said he and his wife put the boy out of their car last Saturday on the main island of Hokkaido in a forest, known to have bears, to teach him a lesson because he had misbehaved, throwing rocks at cars and people. The boy's parents said, however, when they returned a few minutes later they could not find him.

Originally, the parents told police they were out hiking and gathering wild vegetables when their son became lost.

The tale of the missing boy has mesmerized Japan and the parents have been brutalized on social media.

A most apologetic father appeared on Japanese television after the boy was recovered. "We have raised him with love all along," said the father, Takayuki Tanooka, bowing deeply and fighting back tears. "We went too far." He vowed to do a better job as a father.

The elder Tanooka said he told his son he was "sorry for causing him such pain."

The boy's disappearance has opened a debate in Japan about its child-rearing practices.

Mitsuko Tateishi, an author and educator, says Japan remains behind the West in protecting children. She said she doubts any action will be taken against the boy's parents.