Japanese Boy, 7, Left on Mountainside by Parents Is Found
TOKYO – A 7-year-old Japanese boy who disappeared nearly a week ago after his parents left him on the side of a mountain road to discipline him was found unharmed on Friday, the Japanese authorities said.
The boy, Yamato Tanooka, wandered onto a military base about three miles from where he was left on Saturday on the northern island of Hokkaido. He was found early Friday morning by soldiers on a training exercise, exhausted but apparently uninjured, the local police said.
The boy’s parents have faced harsh public criticism over the case, which has been covered intensively by the Japanese news media since his disappearance.
“I’m full of gratitude. From now on, I’m going to take better care of him as he grows up,” Yamato’s father, Takayuki Tanooka, 44, said in comments on NHK, the national broadcaster. Some 200 police officers and volunteer rescue workers had been searching for the boy.
The parents initially told the police that their son had become separated from them while they were picking wild vegetables in the mountains. But they later changed their story, saying they had left their son on the side of the road as punishment for throwing stones at cars and people while they were on an outing.
They said they had driven off in their car, intending to scare him. But when they went back a short time later, the boy was gone.
The police have not indicated whether they intend to pursue criminal charges against the parents.
Three soldiers from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force found the boy in a cabin on the remote wooded military base on Friday morning, said Hiroki Komori, a spokesman for the 11th Brigade of the Northern Army, which trains there. The soldiers had ducked into the cabin to avoid a rain shower, Mr. Komori said.
The soldiers gave the boy rice balls and tea from a canteen, Mr. Komori said. He was taken to Hakodate Municipal Hospital by ambulance.
Japanese news reports said the boy had probably been sheltering for days in the cabin. He told the authorities that he had found his way to the area soon after his parents left him and had been subsisting only on water from a nearby stream, reports said.
Commentary about the case on social media has been overwhelmingly critical toward the parents. “This isn’t discipline, it’s child abuse,” Kenichiro Mogi, a well-known neurologist, author and television personality, wrote on Twitter on Monday.
“It’s the boy’s father who has learned the big lesson,” another social media user said after he was found on Friday.
A few said the parents had simply mishandled an otherwise acceptable form of punishment. Some said they had been subjected to the same treatment from their own parents after misbehaving as children.
“I understand, I really do, but they should at least have kept an eye on him from behind some trees,” one Twitter post from Sunday read. “There are bears in Hokkaido.”
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