TOKYO • Japan's military yesterday joined the search for a seven- year-old boy abandoned in a dense forest by his parents as punishment for being naughty.
Seventy-five members of the Self-Defence Forces joined 200 police officers and civilians beating their way through thick brush in the forest on Hokkaido island.
A local hunter was included in the search for Yamato Tanooka after fresh bear tracks were found in the area where he vanished last Saturday, Jiji news agency said.
The boy's parents had initially said that he disappeared while they were foraging for edible plants, but later told police they had left him by the road to discipline him after he threw stones at people and cars.
They said they drove about 500m down the road, and when they went back a few minutes later, he had vanished. The area is so remote that residents of the northern region say they rarely go through it.
Despite the larger search party no leads have turned up, and many are worried that the boy might not have survived heavy rain which fell on Tuesday night.
He was last seen wearing just a T-shirt and jeans in an area where the overnight temperatures can fall to as low as 7 deg C.
The search has gripped Japan, with news programmes offering hourly updates, and thousands of people have taken to the Internet to both pray for the boy's survival and excoriate his parents for what is seen as neglect.
"If I was a small child in this situation I would either run after the car or wait there until they came back. I just hope he is safely found," one person wrote.