June 3, 2016

Yamato Tanooka — the boy whose parents left him in the woods as a punishment — is found safe and alive after 7 days.

"Yamato's parents had briefly left him by a wooded road near Nanae in Hokkaido region to punish him for throwing rocks on a family day out. When they went back minutes later he had gone. He was dressed in only a T-shirt and jeans, in an area where temperatures can dip as low as 9C at night."

How did he survive?
He was discovered at a military base on Friday, about 5.5km (3.4 miles) from where he went missing last Saturday. The site had allegedly already been searched on Monday morning, but the boy was not found... The search team comprised of 180 people and search dogs. The soldier who found Tanooka had not been part of any previous rescue efforts, AP reports. Yamato told police he had walked to the military base by himself soon after his parents left him. "I drank water to get by," he reportedly said. "There wasn't anything to eat." He slept on mattresses spread on the hut floor.
There doesn't seem to be any talk about taking the child away from the parents, who have been effusively apologizing: 
"My excessive act forced my son to have a painful time... I deeply apologise to people at his school, people in the rescue operation, and everybody for causing them trouble. I have poured all my love into my son, but from now on, I would want to do more, together with him. I would like to protect him while he grows up. Thank you very much."
Initially, the parents had said that the boy had just got lost as they were walking in the woods, but later the father admitted that they'd made the boy get out of the car and they drove away. He'd withheld the true story because of sekentei— which means how one is seen in society. During the days of the search, there was a great deal of talk in Japan about what the parents had done:

Naoki Ogi, a TV personality and pedagogy expert, better known as "Ogi-mama", condemned the parents outright, saying this was neglect and abuse. He also noted and criticised how many parents in Japan tend to see their children as their personal possessions.

But then opinions started to vary and there were some more nuanced and sympathetic views. "Raising kids is hard" seemed to be the collective sigh heard around social media, TV talk shows, and proverbial water coolers.

One famous morning talk show host, Tomoaki Ogura, sympathised with the parents on Monday, on his Fuji TV show "Tokudane!". Mr Ogura said: "To say 'If you're so bad, we can't take you along, just stay here' is a valid way of scolding a child."

Many recalled how they too were shut out of their homes as children, left throwing a tantrum on the toy shop floor, or shut in a dark closet.

A well-known literary critic, Yumi Toyozaki, tweeted on Tuesday: "I was a restless, rambunctious, cantankerous child, so I feel very much for the father who left his child in the woods for a bit in order to discipline him. I hope people stop condemning him."

The incident has had many sharing childhood memories of how parents pretended to leave them or their siblings for refusing to listen.
Of course, it's a mistake to leave the child in the brown-bear-infested woods, and everyone knows that by now. But the story of Yamato Tanooka opened up a broader discussion of discipline that comes in the form of causing the child to believe he is being left behind. Have you never seen a parent perform this drama? Were you the parent? Were you the child?

And hurrah for Yamato Tanooka, the boy who survived. He was clever or lucky to get to a hut and to shelter there, to keep warm, to drink from the tap, and to stay there, day after day, until finally — why did it take so long? — he was found:
"One of our soldiers was preparing for drills this morning and opened the door of a building on the base, and there he was," an SDF member told NHK.

"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 rice balls."

27 comments:

tim in vermont said...

"Clever or lucky"? No, he was plucky.

richlb said...

Whatever happened to that story of the child in the US who was spanked by a public school administrator while his mother recorded and posted it? I was expecting a LOT more blowback about spankimg, but Transgenders in bathrooms seemed to take over the collective offense machine.

tim maguire said...

The parents probably expected (as I would have) that when they returned a few minutes later (how many minutes?), they would find him sitting on the ground crying. Despite the discipline of the parents as the precipitating act, this seems to me to fall very close to being one of those things that can't be anticipated and can't be avoided. Stuff happens sometimes.

Bob Boyd said...

Next time chain him to a tree before driving off...is the lesson here. Just don't forget to come back before dark. Bears are more active after dark and if he can't run away...well...not good.

traditionalguy said...

That was an initiation of sorts into independent living at an early age. A shame based social order tends to threaten ultimate penalties for embarrassing the group.

One result is that the message of Christianity is much needed in Japan.Not the legalistic one that Paul spent his career fighting, but the one that was rediscovered by Luther and Calvin.

pm317 said...

He'd withheld the true story because of sekentei— which means how one is seen in society.

I have heard this about Japanese society/culture before. What a burdensome life to live in such a society. It can bring some good but at what cost?

Sarah from VA said...

I see this genre of child punishment a lot on the playground, though never taken so far as actually getting in the car. Mom says, "I really have to go, and if you don't come now, I'll just have to leave you here!" And then she gathers her bag, starts walking away -- and almost always has to turn back before reaching the car because, predictably, the child doesn't believe her.

This is not a great parenting tactic. It generally doesn't work because you've put a lot of effort into making your child feel loved, wanted and secure in your parent-child relationship. If it DOES work -- great! Your child is in tears and shaking because he REALLY believes you would just abandon him forever on the playground.

Don't make threats to your children you aren't willing to carry out. (Easier said than done, of course -- I've certainly made threats and then had to go back to the negotiating table because I didn't quite think it through before I said it. Still, the general principle applies.)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I bet he won't throw rock again...

Sarah from VA said...

One variation of this I remember from my own childhood is my brother being kicked out of the car while we were driving home from church one day, because he just WOULD NOT STOP trolling whoever he was sitting next to. We were probably not quite a mile away from home at the time, and we drove along slowly next to him to make sure he was OK and kept walking home. It was very memorable. (Not that it prevented us from continuing to harass each other in the car on future drives. Trolls gotta troll.)

Michael K said...

"That was an initiation of sorts into independent living at an early age."

Some Japanese soldiers survived 16 years on Pacific islands after the war.

MadisonMan said...

I note the 'comprised of' in the quoted article.

in an area where temperatures can dip as low as 9C at night

The can. But do they?

What a horribly-written article.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

...in an area where temperatures can dip as low as 9C at night...

That's 48 in real degrees. A bit chilly, but it's not like you have to cut open your tauntaun and climb inside to survive.

Patrick said...

Glad the little guy is ok.

Smilin' Jack said...

Initially, the parents had said that the boy had just got lost as they were walking in the woods, but later the father admitted that they'd made the boy get out of the car and they drove away.

Fast forward 60 years. Yamato's father has fallen and can't get up. And Yamato is standing over him, saying, "You remember that time...."

walter said...

"one of those things that can't be anticipated and can't be avoided. "
Uh..yeah. Because kids are so entirely predictable. Idiots.

walter said...

"A shame based social order tends to threaten ultimate penalties for embarrassing the group.
One result is that the message of Christianity is much needed in Japan"
Or some common sense. As if Christianity has precluded groupthink..groupshame.

coupe said...

The sad thing was, he was surrounded by food. Food was everywhere.

I was ignorant before I went to survival school. It was an Amazing Grace.

Wa-as blind, but now I seeeeeee.....

Nnnph... Mmmph... bugs! Lots of bugs, crawling steaks, alas no marbled fat...

David said...

coupe said...
The sad thing was, he was surrounded by food. Food was everywhere.


And poison too. The kid was smart enough to realize that he could not distinguish between food and poison.

Big Mike said...

This could have ended very tragically. A number of years ago a woman reacted to her quarreling kids by pulling her car over to the side of the road and she made them get out and cool off. While she waited for them to cool down and get back in, she saw a hit and run driver veer off the road, and her teenaged daughter was dead. This happened less than a mile from where I live.

The hit and run driver, a female law clerk who had clerked for a Circuit Court judge and was at the time working for a "white shoes" law firm, was let off after claiming that she thought she had hit a deer. No one outside the tight-knit legal community ever believed her story. Details here.

David said...

One of my kids went and hid in the woods to punish us. I had a pretty good idea where I might find him and did after several hours. In the interim my wife had called the police, who were at the house when we got home. We were very lucky that the cops did not take him away right then. This was 30+ years ago. Now I suspect the cops would have taken my son and it would have been quite a process to get him back.

walter said...

Tells you how safe they feel in Japan. Here, we'd fear the child woudl be picked up by a Catholic priest.

Fernandinande said...

MadisonMan said...
"in an area where temperatures can dip as low as 9C at night"
The can. But do they?


Good point...but it may well have and it's also the average low. Not that it's very low.

Gabriel said...

A lot of people don't know it but Japanese children are in general not disciplined very much. Japanese society is much more homogeneous and conformist, so people expect that children will figure out how to behave as they get older. By and large they do.

And so here is some context. Since families don't in general discipline much, this family had to figure out for themselves what to do, and don't have any preconceived ideas about what might not be appropriate.

It's easy to say "what kind of idiot would have to be not to know" but in this case there is a good reason why they would not know.

R. Chatt said...

I was the child in this scenario. I was chronically late getting ready in the morning as a teenager and this annoyed my mother and sister. One morning as I walked out of the house while my mother and sister were waiting to drive to school I saw my mother and sister look at me then look at each other, laugh, and then drive away. Stunned, I turned around and went back into the house and felt a pain, literally like a knife going into my heart. I'd never had a sensation like that before or since. I broke down and cried and then realized I still had to go to school so I collected myself and walked to school. The episode was never spoken about. That's the Jewish version of the Japanese code I suppose, basically it's called never being able to admit you made a mistake.

I suspect that wasn't the only abusive thing the Japanese father has ever done to his family, despite his claims of love. At least he apologized to his child, but I sincerely hope they go for some counseling because an apology alone won't be enough.

I never got an apology. I never was able to confront my mother and I was blamed for being estranged. She was in such horrible pain at the end of her life I couldn't bring myself to bring up the unfinished business. In a way this story from Japan finishes it for me.

Ann Althouse said...

That's sad, R. Chatt. I'm sorry that happened that way.

What else do you think they could have done to motivate you to be on time?

Leora said...

"He'd withheld the true story because of sekentei— which means how one is seen in society."

I immediately thought of this and other blogs postings about conservatives on campus.

R. Chatt said...

Thanks, Ann. That's an interesting question, we didn't get rewards as motivation. In thinking about it as an adult I realized there were many things we could have done differently but unfortunately we never addressed it as a scheduling problem or looked for a solution. A major motivating solution would have been if I had been given my own room and encouraged to go to bed earlier. I was staying up until midnight every night doing homework -- had all AP classes and all kinds of after school activities to avoid going home and I didn't start doing homework until 8 or 9pm (in the kitchen) after dinner and watching TV with my family. I actually could have had my own room since my oldest sister had moved out, but instead her room was used as a catch all room for extra clothing and when she came home sometimes on weekends. That would have meant a major disruption of the family order which is why it was never an option. I could have showered at night which would have saved time in the morning, but that also never occurred to me. Heaven forbid, I might have disturbed everybody. How absurdly crazy and stressful it all was.