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Parents of Japanese boy abandoned in forest will not be charged

Japanese police say they are not treating Yamato Tanooka's case as a crime and will instead refer it to social services. The boy's parents had abandoned him on Hokkaido Island as punishment for misbehaving.

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Yamato can go home

Yamato Tanooka was released from hospital on Tuesday, four days after

rescuers found him at a military base

on Japan's northern Hokkaido island.

The seven-year-old was wearing a black baseball cap as he emerged from the Hakodate Municipal Hospital, smiling and waving at a throng of journalists and onlookers.

Asked by a journalist if he wanted to return to school, Yamato replied enthusiastically, "I want to go!"

The boy,

who spent six nights alone after his parents had abandoned him on a mountain road in an almost uninhabited forest,

was later driven away in a van by his father.

Anger against parents

Yamato's case sparked a heated debate on social media about discipline and parenting in Japan, with many people angry at the child's parents.

The boy's parents said they made him get out of their car as punishment for throwing stones at people and cars. The parents originally told police their son had got lost while the family was out hiking. They later admitted they were trying to punish him for misbehaving.

Yamato was reportedly without food and water when he was left behind in the forest, which is inhabited by bears.

The military base where the boy was found is located about 5.5 kilometers (3.4 miles) northeast of the site where he went missing. The local Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper reported the boy told police he had taken shelter in a hut inside the base.

More than 180 rescuers, including Japanese troops, had been searching for the boy since he went missing.

"I feel very sorry for my child," the father told a television reporter earlier this week as the story unfolded. "I am so sorry for causing trouble for many people."

Mental care

"I walked for about five hours, I think," Yamato was quoted as saying by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, adding the boy was crying so hard he took the wrong direction.

"I was cold so I went inside to sleep," he added.

Some Japanese have called for the parents to be prosecuted, but police said Tuesday it would not press charges against them.

"We plan not to regard it as a criminal case," a Hokkaido police spokesman told AFP.

Toru Numata, a lawyer who deals with child abuse and domestic violence, said the "chances of making it a prosecutable case are extremely slim."

Authorities will focus on the boy's mental care and the possible trauma from the ordeal, said the lawyer.

shs/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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