Asia

Japanese missing boy Yamato Tanooka found alive in Hokkaido

Yamato Tanooka (undated police handout) Image copyright AFP
Image caption Yamato Tanooka, seen here in an older picture, had not been seen since last Saturday

A boy missing in remote woods in Japan since Saturday after being left alone by his parents as punishment has been found alive and well.

Seven-year-old Yamato Tanooka was found in a military training base near Shikabe in Hokkaido, just a few kilometres from where he was left.

His parents initially said he had got lost, but eventually admitted briefly abandoning him for being naughty.

His father has apologised to his son and rescuers, saying "we went too far".

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"My excessive act forced my son to have a painful time," Takayuki Tanooka said in an emotional news briefing outside Hakodate hospital, 30km (19 miles) south, where the boy was taken for checks.

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Media captionThe boy's father Takayuki Tanooka apologised for abandoning his son

"I deeply apologise to people at his school, people in the rescue operation, and everybody for causing them trouble," he said.

"I have poured all my love into my son, but from now on, I would want to do more, together with him. I would like to protect him while he grows up. Thank you very much."

How Yamato survived

Search teams including the Self-Defence Forces (SDF) have been combing the remote area, home to brown bears, for nearly a week.

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Media captionThe seven-year-old boy was abandoned in dense forest by his parents

They had found no trace of Yamato and hopes were fading.

But shortly before 08:00 on Friday morning (23:00 GMT on Thursday) he was found inside a building at the SDF base about 4km (2.5 miles) from where he was left.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The base was not far from where Yamato went missing, but surrounded by dense woods

"One of our soldiers was preparing for drills this morning and opened the door of a building on the base, and there he was," an SDF member told NHK.

"When he asked 'are you Yamato?' the boy said, 'Yes'. Then he said he was hungry, so the soldier gave him some water, bread and rice balls."

It appears rescuers came tantalisingly close to finding him four days ago. The SDF said the base had been searched on Monday but no trace was seen of the boy, who says he reached the hut on Saturday.

The soldier who found him was not part of the search team.

NHK said Yamato had told rescuers he "walked through the mountains" until he found the shelter.

He was taken to hospital by a medical helicopter. A doctor later said he was in very good condition, despite only having had water during his six-day ordeal.

At Yamato's school in Hokuto, near Hakodate, his fellow pupils shouted for joy when it was announced at assembly that he was safe, the Japan Times reports.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The boy is thought to have sheltered in a military hut since he disappeared
Image copyright AP
Image caption Soldiers showed the media the mattress Yamato found inside the hut to sleep on

Yamato's parents initially said he got lost while they were foraging for vegetables, along with their daughter. But they later admitted they had driven off, briefly leaving him alone on a mountain road as a punishment for throwing stones earlier. When they returned to collect him shortly afterwards, he had disappeared, they said.

He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt at the time, Reuters news agency reported.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption They have been scouring the dense forest since the boy went missing on Saturday
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The SDF said the boy was found only a few kilometres from where he went missing
Image copyright AP
Image caption Though he was reported to be in good health Yamato was taken to hospital for checks

Police have said the parents could face charges for negligence.

The case has gripped Japan, sparking discussions about acceptable levels of discipline for children.

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