Boy, 7, found alive week after parents abandoned him in woods

A seven-year-old boy who was abandoned by his parents in a forest in Japan has been found safe after six days.

Yamato Tanooka, who had been missing since Saturday, was discovered in a military hut by a soldier. The boy devoured two rice balls the soldier gave him, but did not shed a tear, the military said.

He looked tired, but was ‘genki’ — a Japanese word describing healthy children.

His safe return was welcomed, but Japan had been riveted by his disappearance and anguished about how it raises and disciplines its children. Yamato’s story, pieced together from comments from the military and police, was an admirable tale of resourcefulness and resilience.

His parents, teaching him a lesson for misbehaving and throwing rocks, made him get out of the car last Saturday, on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido, in a forest reputedly ridden with bears. They returned several minutes later, but could not find him.

After walking for some distance, the boy found the empty hut in a military drill area and entered a door that had been left open.

The building had no heat or power and no food, but Yamato huddled between mattresses on the floor and drank water from the solitary tap outside the hut.

A massive manhunt, including 180 people and search dogs, had found no trace of him. The soldier who found him had not been part of the frenzied search, but soon the boy identified himself as Yamato.

Appearing outside the hospital where Yamato had been flown by helicopter, his father, Takayuki Tanooka, apologised, bowing deeply, thanked everyone for the rescue and vowed to be a better parent.

“We have raised him with love all along,” he said, fighting tears. “I really didn’t think it would come to that. We went too far.”

Military officials expressed admiration for the boy’s perseverance, as the hut where he was found was far from where he had disappeared and involved a rigorous, uphill climb.

The boy was dehydrated and had minor scratches on his arms and feet, but no serious health issues.

Asked what he had told his son after he was found, Mr Tanooka said: “I told him I was so sorry for causing him such pain.”


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