Picture this: A 7-year-old boy is out in the forest with his mom and dad when he becomes bored and starts tossing pebbles at cars. As a parent, what would you do? Well, Yamato Tanooka’s parents thought it was a good idea to leave him at the edge of the forest and drive off in their car, to teach him a lesson. According to Yamato’s father, they returned for him within five minutes, only to find him gone. This was four days ago, and the Yamato is still missing in an area of the forest that is known to be the home of a number of bears. Yamato had no food or water, and was dressed in only shorts and a t-shirt, though the temperatures dropped to 7° (C), or 44° (F) on Sunday night, accompanied by heavy rainfall in the northernmost section of Hokkaido, Japan’s main island.
I recently went on another rant about what I call ‘bad parenting’, and truly did not intend to do so again anytime soon, but this is just too much. I raised three children and one grandchild, and yes, I made mistakes along the way … plenty of them! But to willfully put a child through the trauma of believing he has been abandoned, that perhaps his parents no longer love him, all because he was being a perfectly normal little boy? That, my friends, is inexcusable. Even if Yamato had not gotten lost in the forest, this would have been cruelty in my book. A child should always be able to believe that his parents are the two people he can rely on, the one thing in an otherwise confusing world, that define constancy, stability, and love. To some extent, I understand that there are cultural differences in child-rearing. Where many of us in the western world are known to ‘spoil’ our children, the Japanese tend to be much stricter, but even making allowances for that, I find this unconscionable.
To add insult to injury, once the parents discovered that Yamato was missing, in their call to police they lied and said that they had been ‘collecting edible plants’ in the forest when their son suddenly went missing, only to re-cant later on. The father, Takayuki, said: “I feel very sorry for my son. I am so sorry for causing trouble for so many people.” They also delayed in reporting his disappearance, fearing legal repercussions. Now the police are ‘looking into’ possible charges of neglect against Yamato’s parents.
Over 150 members of the local police and fire departments, along with rescue teams, have been searching for Yamato for nearly four days, have expanded the search area and called in S&R dogs and helicopters as well, but there is still, as of this writing (Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 6:20 p.m. EDT) no sign of the boy. Certainly there remains a ray of hope, however with each passing hour it seems more likely that Yamato will not be found alive. I shall continue to hope and will update this post if and when new information becomes available.