Japanese boy left in bear-infested forest found alive

World Today

7-year-old Yamato Tanooka was found safe nearly a week after he was abandoned in the forest by his parents in Nanae, Hokkaido, northern Japan. The boy’s safe return was welcomed in a nation riveted by his disappearance and undergoing intense soul-searching about how it raises and disciplines its children. (Hamawake Elementary School/Kyodo News via AP)

After nearly a week of massive search, a seven-year-old Japanese boy who was left in a forest by his parents in Hokkaido, northern Japan, has been found alive and uninjured early Friday.

The rescue search team consisted of at least 180 police officers and firefighters.

His parents returned minutes later after punishing him but the boy had disappeared. He had apparently made his way into a forest that is densely populated by brown bears.

Three soldiers from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces found the boy lying in between two mattresses to stay warm in an area where temperatures drop as low as 8 C (46.4 F) at night. Yamato was dressed in only a T-shirt and jeans when he left his parents.

The boy, who suffered from minor scratches on his arms and legs, is spending the night at the hospital.

Takayuki Tanooki, the father of the boy, appeared at the entrance of the hospital for a press conference.

“I told my son that I’m sorry that I made him go through a very hard situation,” he told TV Asahi while appearing on the verge of tears. “I never thought the situation would develop in such a way. I thought it would be good for him but it was too much.”

Initially, the boy’s father told the police that his son disappeared while picking vegetables during their family day out.

“I thought it might be taken as a domestic violence,” he the local television station.

The incident triggered a backlash on social networks, mostly blaming Yamato’s parents as neglectful. It also prompted a debate about Japan’s parenting style.