TOKYO — Yamato Tanooka, the 7-year-old boy who was missing for nearly a week in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, has been found unharmed, Japanese officials said Friday.
Yamato was found by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces personnel on the premises of the military’s Kamagatame exercise field Friday morning, said Satoshi Saito, a spokesperson for the local fire department.
The boy does not have any notable injuries, a representative of the Hokkaido Prefectural Police said.
Yamato was reported missing on Saturday. The 7-year-old’s parents said they left him briefly on the side of a mountain road in the woods of Nanae as punishment for throwing stones at passing cars and people. When his parents returned for him, the boy was gone.
After six days of searching through thick forest, the operation to find him scaled down on Friday. Nearly 200 members of search and rescue teams, including dozens of Japan’s self defense force members, scoured the mountains of Hokkaido island for any sign of life, according to Satoshi Saito, spokesman for the fire department in the town of Nanae.
After six days, rescuers were running out of places to look.
“We have been searching through the area over and over thoroughly for six days,” Saito told CNN earlier on Friday. “We feel like we have searched all that we could. Although the team will become smaller, we will continue searching without losing hope. There have been cases of missing people who’ve been found after a week.”
In the woods
The boy’s father originally told authorities his son had gone missing while picking wild vegetables with his family, but later changed his story, authorities say.
“This is a very rare case, specifically with the story changing in the middle,” Saito said. “We cannot speak retrospectively, but we would have seen a different development if we had known the story from the beginning.”
Saito said officials were considering the possibility that someone picked up the boy from the road but also know he could have wandered into the thick mountain forests.
Tanooka attends Hamawake primary school in Hokuto city in Hokkaido. On Monday, the school held an emergency meeting at which school administrators explained the situation to all the students and shared a hopeful message.
It’s not yet clear what Tanooka was doing during the time he was missing.