A missing 7-year-old boy was found unharmed after searchers spent nearly a week combing dense forest in the northern Japan island of Hokkaido, Japanese officials said Friday.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces personnel found Yamato Tanooka in a building on the premises of the military’s Kamagatame exercise field Friday morning, said Satoshi Saito, a spokesperson for the local fire department.
Yamato was found 6 kilometers from the spot where his parents left him as punishment for throwing stones, according to local media. Yamato told police he reached the building that first night, local media said.
He appeared to be in good condition for someone who had spent seven days without food, Dr. Yoshiyuki Sakai, the doctor who examined Yamato, told Asahi TV. He spoke coherently and showed signs of mild dehydration and malnutrition; he had a light rash on his arms and legs, the doctor said.
An SDF member who found the boy said he was hungry. The member gave him water and a rice ball. The member said the boy was fine and talking normally.
News of Yamato’s disappearance spread beyond the island nation due to its odd circumstances.
The boy’s father told authorities on May 28 that his son disappeared while picking wild vegetables with his family.
The boy’s parents later admitted they left him on the side of a mountain road in the woods of Nanae, home to wild bears. It was punishment for throwing stones at passing cars and people.
When his parents returned for him, the boy was gone.
The boy’s father suggested the family hesitated to report him missing because of the punishment.
“I thought it might be taken as a domestic violence,” he told TV Asahi.
The lie may have put search and rescue efforts at a strategic disadvantage, said Saito.
“This is a very rare case, specifically with the story changing in the middle,” Saito said earlier this week. “We cannot speak retrospectively, but we would have seen a different development if we had known the story from the beginning.”
For six days, nearly 200 members of search and rescue teams scoured the mountains for signs of life. On Thursday, the operation scaled down.
“We have been searching through the area over and over thoroughly for six days,” Saito had said. “We feel like we have searched all that we could. Although the team will become smaller, we will continue searching without losing hope. There have been cases of missing people who’ve been found after a week.”