The 7-years-old Japanese boy, Yamato Tanooka who went missing in the forest last week has been found.

Since the boy went missing, the whole of Japan had been thrown into panic, prompting the sending out of search parties consisting of over 180 people, dogs, police officers.

When the parents of the boy reported the case to the police, they left out a few details.

They had simply reported the case as a case of a missing person – they told police that they had been picking vegetable when the boy went missing, while they omitted the fact that they had deliberately left him in the forest as a form of punishment.

Seven days after the boy went missing, he was found by a soldier who discovered him by chance in a military hut.

The boy told the soldier he was hungry and when the soldier gave him two rice balls, the 7-year-old boy ate “ravenously”.

Officials have accessed him and described him unharmed and “genki,” a Japanese word which is used to describe healthy children.

The hut where he was found is 4 miles from the spot where he was dropped. According to Local Media, the boy told police he reached the building the first night he went missing.

He appeared to be in good condition for someone who had spent seven days without food.

Dr. Yoshiyuki Sakai, the doctor who examined Yamato, said at the press conference: “He spoke coherently and showed signs of mild dehydration and malnutrition; he had light scratches on his arms and legs”.

Yamato will remain in the hospital while his internal conditions are checked, the doctor said. He was being treated intravenously for dehydration.

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.

His father has since the boy’s return apologised and expressed deep regret at the occurrence. Bowing, he 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. “I really didn’t think it would come to that. We went too far.”

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 and military officials also commended the boy’s perseverance and strength.

On the other hand, since the boy disappeared, a debate has started in the country as to what measures to be taken in disciplining children.

Though Yamato’s parents are not officially under any police investigation for their actions, they have been condemned numerously.

Mitsuko Tateishi, an educator said: “The punishment this parent chose is unthinkable. They have no idea how to raise a child. They did not try to explain what was right and wrong. A child is not a dog or a cat. You have to treat the child like a human individual.”

Mitsuko said that Japan remains behind the West in protecting children, and she doubts any concrete action would be taken against these parents.

Author: Ope Adedeji