Boy forgives his father for abandoning him in forest in Japan

Yamato Tanooka says he wants to play baseball and go back to school. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Yamato Tanooka says he wants to play baseball and go back to school. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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A Japanese boy who was found nearly a week after he was abandoned in a forest by his parents as punishment has been released from a hospital and said he was feeling fine.

Seven-year-old Yamato Tanooka was met with camera flashes and cheers from dozens of people when he appeared outside the hospital in the city of Hakodate on the northern island of Hokkaido.

“I am fine,” Yamato said when a reporter asked how he was feeling.

Police do not intend to press child neglect charges against his parents, police spokesman Shunsuke Kudo said.

Yamato was found in a military training ground hut last Friday, six days after he was reported missing.

His parents initially told police their son had disappeared while they were collecting plants in the forest, but his father, Takayuki Tanooka, later admitted he had made Yamato get out of the car and planned to leave him briefly in the forest as punishment for throwing rocks at people and cars earlier that day.

When Mr Tanooka returned, his son was gone.

Mr Tanooka told broadcaster TBS in an interview: “I said to him, ‘Dad made you go though such a hard time. I am sorry’.”

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

Kyodo News service reported that the boy said he meant to follow the car but walked in the wrong direction, eventually reaching the training ground hut.

The punishment drew public scrutiny, generating debate in Japan over what is considered excessive in disciplining children.

Mr Kudo said police are considering referring the case to a children’s welfare centre, however police later confirmed they don’t intend to press child neglect charges.

Though he had no food and just drank water during the ordeal, doctors said Yamato only had mild dehydration and minor bruises on an arm and his legs, Japanese media reported. He said he drank water from a tap at the facility but ate nothing for six days.

When found, Yamato was lightly dehydrated, malnourished and had scrapes on his arms and legs but was said to be otherwise in good health.

Wearing a baseball cap and a gray jacket over a T-shirt, Yamato waved at the hospital crowd while holding a greeting card in the shape of an oversized baseball.

Asked what he would like to do, he said he wants to play baseball. He added he would like to go back to school soon and is looking forward to participating in a school sports day.

Before leaving the hospital, his father bowed to the cameras and said, “Thank you”.