A 7-year-old Japanese boy whose parents left him in the woods as punishment was found alive and well following a six-day search, police say.
Military personnel found Yamato Tanooka June 2 on a military training base in the town of Shikabe, roughly 3 miles from where he disappeared May 28. He survived by drinking water from a tap and sleeping on a mattress, Express reports.
His first words to rescuers: "I am hungry."
A spokesman for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces explained that Tanooka was found by chance.
"One of our soldiers was preparing for drills and opened the door of a building on the base, and there he was" he said. "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."
Tanooka's parents initially stated they accidentally lost their son in the woods when he went looking for wild plants, but the next day confessed to abandoning the child as a "form of discipline," NBC News reports. It was reported that Tanooka was punished for throwing stones at cars.
Tanooka's father expressed contrition to reporters.
"I really didn't think things would turn out this way," he said with a quivering voice, according to NBC News. "I think my actions were very excessive, and I deeply regret it."
Tanooka managed to brave harsh conditions, including low temperatures and heavy rainfall, wearing only a T-shirt and jeans, Express reports. He was taken to the hospital, where he was found to have a low body temperature but was otherwise in good condition. Doctors planned to keep him overnight for observation.
News of Tanooka's disappearance spread rapidly over the whole country, prompting intensive search efforts and igniting debates about the ethical limits of disciplining children.