Seven-year-old Yamato walked through a dense forest to a military base braving the rains and cold at night  

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese boy abandoned in a dense forest by his parents for being naughty was found alive and unharmed on Friday, nearly a week after his disappearance set off a massive search that kept the nation riveted.

Takayuki Tanooka, father of 7-year-old boy Yamato Tanooka who went missing on May 28, 2016 after being left behind by his parents, was found alive, reacts as he speaks to the media in Hakodate on the northernmost Japanese main island of Hokkaido, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo on June 3, 2016. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS
Takayuki Tanooka, father of Yamato Tanooka, reacts as he speaks to the media in Hakodate on the northernmost Japanese main island of Hokkaido June 3, 2016  Kyodo/via REUTERS

Seven-year-old Yamato Tanooka was discovered in a building on a Japanese military base around 4 km (2.5 miles) from where he disappeared last Saturday after his parents left him by the side of a road, reportedly as discipline for throwing stones at cars.

Members of search party celebrate after Yamato Tanooka was found alive Kyodo/via REUTERS
Members of the search party in Nanae town celebrate after Yamato Tanooka was found alive in a building on a military base Kyodo/via REUTERS

“One of our soldiers was preparing for drills this morning and opened 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 rice balls.”

Yamato was taken to hospital for checks but was healthy except for low body temperature and would be kept overnight as a precaution, a doctor told a news conference. The boy’s parents first said he disappeared while they foraged for edible plants, but later told police they had left him by the road to discipline him after he threw stones at people and cars.

They said when they drove back a few minutes later, the boy had disappeared. The area is so remote that residents of the region say they rarely go through it.

The boy somehow managed to survive for nearly a week in the densely forested area, where night temperatures fell as low as 7 degrees Celsius (45 Fahrenheit) and heavy rain had fallen.

A member of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force shows the mattress which Yamato Tanooka used inside a building at JGSDF's Komagatake exercise area in Shikabe town June 3, 2016 Kyodo/via REUTERS
A member of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force shows the mattress which Yamato Tanooka used inside a building at their Komagatake exercise area in Shikabe town  Kyodo/via REUTERS

Yamato said that he had “walked through the mountains” until he found the building, broadcaster NHK said. He drank water and slept on mattresses spread on the floor.

The gripped Japan. At its peak, it involved several hundred rescuers beating through heavy bush and shouting, as well as soldiers on motorbikes and police on horseback.

News programs gave regular updates throughout the week, and NHK sent a news flash when he was found.

The incident set off a flood of social media comment, with most posters lambasting the parents for their carelessness. On Friday, most expressed relief.

“To be honest, I was certain of a sad result. As the parent of a 7-year-old myself, all I can say is that I am really, really happy,” one wrote.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Paul Tait)

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