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Japanese boy abandoned in forest has forgiven his father (says his father)

“And then, my son said, ‘You are a good dad. I forgive you’.”

Yamato Tanooka
Yamato Tanooka
Image: None

THE FATHER OF a seven-year-old Japanese boy found alive nearly a week after his parents left him in a dense forest as punishment said his son had forgiven him, as details emerged of the boy’s ordeal.

Japan has been mesmerised by young Yamato Tanooka, who survived six nights alone after his angry parents abandoned him by the side of a mountain road on the northern island of Hokkaido on 28 May.

Searchers, including soldiers, spent days scouring the mountainous forest which is home to brown bears, but could find no clues to the missing boy.

He was discovered on Friday morning sheltering in a hut on a military drill field some 5.5 kilometres from where he had been left.

Takayuki Tanooka, his 44-year-old father, has said he, his wife and daughter returned several minutes later to the spot where Yamato was forced out of the family car, but there was no sign of him.

“I said to him, ‘Dad made you go though such a hard time. I am sorry’,” the elder Tanooka told broadcaster TBS in footage aired today.

“And then, my son said, ‘You are a good dad. I forgive you’,” Tanooka added, choking up.

Japan Missing Boy An electronic board shows a local news report that a missing boy was found in Hokkaido. Source: Shuji Kajiyama

Yamato, who was taken to hospital by helicopter immediately after being found in the hut by a soldier, will be discharged tomorrow, a hospital official told AFP, refraining from giving further details.

Local reports said he had suffered slight dehydration and minor scars on his arms and legs. His weight, originally about 22 kilogrammes, was down about two kilogrammes.

His father said Yamato was recovering quickly, finishing each meal served, drawing in a notebook and playing cards with his family, the Mainichi Shimbun daily reported.

Local police have reported the case to a child welfare centre as possible mental abuse, the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper and other reports said.

‘Father’s dignity’

Police also interviewed Yamato, Jiji Press said.

The child told them he would walk around the drill field on sunny days but did not wander far. He heard the sound of helicopters and the cries of wild animals but no people, Jiji said, citing police.

Immediately after being abandoned, the crying boy tried to chase his parents’ car but ended up getting disoriented and going the opposite way, the Mainichi reported, citing sources close to the family.

Japan Missing Child Source: Shuji Kajiyama

Yamato also said that because he was afraid of the forest he walked about five hours in the dark along a path until he came to the hut, the report added.

Other reports said the boy saw no one until the soldier found him on Friday but he believed his family must be looking for him.

Yamato’s parents have been severely criticised for forcing him out of their car to teach him a lesson for throwing stones at cars and people.

The elder Tanooka said he was angry because the boy had recently been scolded at school for hitting cars with a wooden stick.

“So I tried to show him that I can be scary if seriously angry,” he said, citing what he described as a “father’s dignity”.

The contrite dad bowed and apologised in front of reporters on Friday after being reunited with Yamato for what he admitted were his “excessive” actions.

The parents originally told police their son got lost while on a family outing to gather wild vegetables. Tanooka said they lied at first because they feared social censure and possibly being questioned by police as abusive parents.

- © AFP, 2016

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