Boy aban­doned in Ja­pan for­est sur­vives

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

TOKYO—Nearly a week af­ter he was aban­doned in the for­est by his par­ents, the boy did not shed a tear when he was found safe Fri­day. The sol­dier who dis­cov­ered him by chance in a mil­i­tary hut gave him two rice balls, which 7year-old Yam­ato Tanooka ate ravenously. He looked a bit worn out but was “genki,” the mil­i­tary said, us­ing a Ja­panese word de­scrib­ing healthy chil­dren.

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.

Yam­ato’s story, as pieced to­gether from com­ments from the mil­i­tary and po­lice, was ad­mirable in re­source­ful­ness and re­silience.

His par­ents, try­ing to teach him a les­son for mis­be­hav­ing and throw­ing rocks, made him get out of the car last Satur­day on the north­ern­most main is­land of Hokkaido in a for­est re­put­edly rid­den with bears. They couldn’t find him when they re­turned sev­eral min­utes later.

Ap­par­ently walk­ing for sev­eral kilo­me­ters, the boy found the empty hut in a mil­i­tary drill area and en­tered a door that had been left open. The longhouse-style hut had no heat or power and no food, but Yam­ato hud­dled be­tween mat­tresses on the floor and drank wa­ter from the soli­tary faucet out­side the hut for sev­eral days, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

A mas­sive man­hunt, in­clud­ing 180 peo­ple and search dogs, had found no trace of him. The sol­dier who found him had not been part of the fren­zied search ef­fort, but soon the boy iden­ti­fied him­self as Yam­ato Tanooka (Tah-noh-ohkah).

Ap­pear­ing out­side the hospi­tal where the boy was flown in by he­li­copter, his fa­ther apol­o­gized, bow­ing deeply, thanked ev­ery­one for the res­cue and vowed to do a bet­ter job as his dad.

“We have raised him with love all along,” said the fa­ther, Takayuki Tanooka, fight­ing tears. “I re­ally didn’t think it would come to that. We went too far.”

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion for the boy’s per­se­ver­ance, as the build­ing where he was found was far from where he had dis­ap­peared and in­volved a rig­or­ous up­hill climb.

The boy was de­hy­drated and had mi­nor scratches on his arms and feet, but no se­ri­ous health risks were found, a doc­tor who ex­am­ined him said on na­tion­ally tele­vised news.

Al­though go­ing with­out wa­ter is dan­ger­ous even for a few days, peo­ple can sur­vive longer with­out food, such as peo­ple who have fasted or gone on hunger strikes for a few weeks. While ex­perts say a wa­ter-only diet for so long must have been painful, they boy ap­par­ently stayed at the hut for much of the time. More de­tails on his ex­pe­ri­ence were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Asked what he had told his son af­ter he was found, the fa­ther said, “I told him I was so sorry for caus­ing him such pain.”

The na­tion wel­comed the boy’s safe re­turn. Old photos of Yam­ato, wear­ing a cow­boy hat here, hold­ing up two fin­gers in a peace sign there, his bangs fall­ing over a proud smile, were flashed across again and again on TV.

Dai­jiro Hashimoto, a for­mer gover­nor ap­pear­ing on a talk show on TV Asahi, won­dered how the boy had en­dured the lone­li­ness, es­pe­cially at night, and sug­gested that per­haps he had imag­ined he was on some ad­ven­ture and was hid­ing in a se­cret camp.—AP

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