Boy, 7, Missing In Northern Japan After Being Left In Bear-Infested Woods As Punishment

The second-grader has been missing since Saturday.

31/05/2016 2:55 PM AEST | Updated 31/05/2016 2:55 PM AEST

A 7-year-old boy has been missing since Saturday, when his parents left him in a bear-infested forest in northern Japan without food or water as punishment.

Yamato Tanooka had been throwing stones at cars and people during the family trip near Nanae in Hokkaido, AFP reported. On the way home, his parents stopped the car and told him to get out.

They drove about 550 yards, the news agency said, but when they returned, the boy was gone.

Some 130 police officers and school officials searched for the second grader on Monday, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

KYODO Kyodo / Reuters
Rescuers on horseback search for a 7-year-old Japanese boy who went missing after being left in a forest overnight by his parents as punishment. 

It's not clear how long the parents looked for Yamato before contacting authorities. However, his parents initially told police the child had just gotten lost. 

"I couldn't bring myself to say it was to discipline him... and then ask the police to search for him," said the boy's father, 44-year-old Takayuki Tanooka, according to UPI. "I want to apologize to my son, also for causing trouble for so many people. I'm just filled with the feeling hoping that he comes back safely."

The forests around Nanae are known for Ussuri brown bears, also called black grizzly bears.

"Not many people or cars pass by, and it gets totally dark as there are no lights," Mitsuru Wakayama, a spokesman for the town of Nanae, told the Japan Times. "It’s not surprising to encounter bears anywhere in the area."

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