Yamato Tanooka, pictured here, in this undated handout provided by an elementary school of Hokuto city shows Yamato Tanooka. Photo courtesy: Handout/AFP
After spending six nights alone in a bear-inhabited forest in Nanae, Hokkaido, seven-year-old Yamato Tanooka was found safe on June 3.
Tanooka’s parents had left him at the side of the road as a punishment for misbehaving and throwing rocks at people and cars. His parents claim that when they returned minutes later, their son was no longer there. Over the next few days, Tanooka walked over five kilometres to an abandoned military base in Shikabe, where he found shelter.
A search effort of over 180 people, military, and a team of search dogs were unable to find the boy. The hut was reportedly searched on Monday, but he was not found until passing soldiers, who were not connected with search efforts, found him while seeking shelter from the rain.
The boy was able to survive for nearly a week without food or heat by sleeping between mattresses on the floor for warmth and drinking water from a faucet outside of the military hut. Despite suffering from mild dehydration and losing 2kg (4.5lbs), military officials described Tanooka as “genki,” or healthy.
Tanooka’s father issued a formal apology for the incident. “My excessive behaviour caused my son such pain and inconvenienced so many people,”Takayuki Tanooka said in a statement outside of the hospital where his son was being assessed. “For that I am deeply sorry.”
According to The Sankei Shimbun, Yamato Tanooka has forgiven his father, calling him a good dad. He is quoted saying, “I was wrong, because I didn’t listen to what my dad was saying.”
Tanooka’s parents may face charges of child abandonment and police are considering an investigation into any psychological abuse the boy may have suffered.