TOKYO — The 7-year-old boy who was missing for nearly a week in the forest with bears has been found unharmed.
Japanese officials say Yamato Tanooka turned up on a military base field early Friday morning after searchers spent nearly a week combing dense forest on the northern side of Hokkaido. He was found in a small building at a military exercise ground about 2 1/2 miles from the spot where his parents left him alone on a roadside as punishment for throwing rocks. Yamato was dehydrated but otherwise unhurt, Hokkaido Prefectural police said.
For six days, nearly 200 members of search and rescue teams, including dozens of Japan’s self defense force members, scoured the mountains of Hokkaido island for any sign of life.
Yamato Tanooka was reported missing on Saturday. The 7-year-old’s parents said they left him briefly on the side of a mountain road in the woods of Nanae as punishment for throwing stones at passing cars and people. When his parents returned for him, the boy was gone.
The boy’s father originally told authorities his son had gone missing while picking wild vegetables with his family, but later changed his story, authorities say.
Yamato’s father was full of gratitude toward rescuers and full of regret for the way he chose to discipline his son. “I first said to my son ‘I’m sorry’ that I forced him to experience a very painful time, he nodded in response. I raised my son with full of love. I never thought the situation would be like.. I deeply regretting my act was too extreme. I only tried to deal with it for my son, thinking for my son,” he said via translation.
It’s not yet clear what Yamato was doing during the time he was missing.