Search Underway For Japanese Boy Left In Woods As Punishment

Hokkaido is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan's four main islands. It accounts for 21 percent of Japan's total land area but only 4.5 percent of Japan’s inhabitants live there with 5.5 million people, according to the New World Encyclopedia. Most of the population is concentrated in the west and southwest. A 7-year-old boy has been missing since Saturday in the northern portion of the island. Photo by greanggrai hommalai/Shutterstock.com

HOKKAIDO, Japan, May 30 (UPI) — Rescuers are looking for an 7-year-old Japanese boy whose parents left him in bear-inhabited woods as punishment.

Yamato Tanooka has been missing since Saturday afternoon on northern Hokkaido island. About 130 rescuers and police officers are searching for the boy in the mountainous area.

Originally, the parents told police their son became separated from them in the woodlands while they were looking for wild plants. But the boy’s father changed his story the next day, saying the boy was left behind as a “form of discipline” because he was throwing stones at cars on a road nearby.

“I couldn’t bring myself to say it was to discipline him … and then ask the police to search for him,” the boy’s father, Takayuki Tano-oka, 44, said on national TV in Japan.

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“I want to apologize to my son, also for causing trouble for so many people,” he said. “I’m just filled with the feeling hoping that he comes back safely.”

Relatives said the boy was out of sight for around five minutes.

The area is isolated and includes brown bears.

Mitsuru Wakayama, a spokesman for the nearby town of Nanae, said local residents rarely go through the mountainous area as a shortcut.

Temperatures dropped to 46.5 degrees Sunday night and it was raining.The boy has no food or water.

Police are investigating whether to charge the parents with abandonment.

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