A Japanese boy who miraculously survived six days alone in bear-infested forest without food or water told the rescuer who found him he was hungry, before wolfing down rice balls and bread.
Yamato Tanooka, seven, was rushed to hospital suffering exhaustion and dehydration but otherwise apparently unharmed on Friday after a massive search ended with the boy being found in deep woods on the northern island of Hokkaido.
He was discovered inside an old Self-Defense Forces training facility in the town of Shikabe about five kilometres from where he disappeared.
Last Saturday his parents made him get out of their car as punishment for misbehaving, leaving him behind in a wooded area. When they returned minutes later, he had disappeared.
When rescuers reached him on Friday morning after he had been missing for six days, the boy said he had walked to the SDF facility on his own through the mountains, investigators said.
‘One of our soldiers was preparing for drills this morning and unlocked the door of a building on the base, and there he was,’ a member of Japan’s Self-Defence Forces told NHK national television.
‘When he asked ‘are you Yamato?’ the boy said yes. Then he said he was hungry, so the soldier gave him some water, bread and riceballs.’
In the forest where the seven-year-old spent six days on his own, overnight temperatures dropped to 7 degrees, and there had been heavy rainfall in recent days.
Appearing outside the hospital where the boy was taken after he was found, his father Takayuki Tanooka said: ‘We have raised him with love all along.
‘I really didn’t think it would come to that. We went too far. I thought we were doing it for my son’s own good.’
Asked what he had told his son, Mr Tanooka, fighting back tears, said: ‘I told him I was so sorry for causing him such pain.’
He told police he had been drinking water from a tap outside the building while he was staying inside the military base.
Dr. Yoshiyuki Sakai, the doctor who examined Yamato, said the child appeared to be in a good condition for a boy who had not had food for six days.