Abandoned Japanese boy leaves hospital

Satoshi Sugiyama
Associated Press

Tokyo — A Japanese boy who was found nearly a week after he was abandoned in a forest by his parents as punishment was released from a hospital Tuesday 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 don’t 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 Tanooka returned, his son was gone. 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.

Kudo said police are considering referring the case to a children’s welfare center. Miki Kurotatsu with the Hakodate Children’s Welfare Center declined to comment on whether the center had received a report from police, saying it was a private matter.

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.

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.” He had told reporters after his son was found that he regretted his action.