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The recent discovery of an uninjured 2-year-old boy who had been missing for three days on an island in western Japan is being called a miracle, with experts remarking that the hot weather and time elapsed since his disappearance had made a safe return seem unlikely.

Yoshiki Fujimoto was found barefoot and sitting on a mossy stone in the middle of a stream on Aug. 15 by search party volunteer Haruo Obata, who used his past experience as part of another search to find the boy.

Yoshiki was found on a mountain in the town of Suo-Oshima on Yashiro Island in Yamaguchi Prefecture about 68 hours after he had gone missing, just shy of the 72 hours after which the chance of survival is believed to drop considerably.

Pediatricians and experts were surprised that the boy was found alive, as temperatures on the island had topped 30 C between Sunday and Tuesday.

Yoshiki, from Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, arrived at his great-grandfather’s house Sunday and got lost the same day after heading for a beach about 400 meters away with his grandfather Masanori and 3-year-old brother.

After about 100 meters, Yoshiki tried to return to the house on his own but couldn’t find his way back.

He was found at around 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 15 on a mountain just 560 meters from the house.

Despite a search effort involving 380 police officers and rescuers as well as drones with thermal imaging cameras, the mountain where the boy was eventually found wasn’t searched until Obata went there and quickly spotted him.

Rescuers dived in water reservoirs and combed paddy fields as well as roads but not the mountain, prompting some police officers to voice regret that they did not expand the search area earlier.

Obata, 78, from Oita Prefecture, followed a mountain trail, believing small children tend to climb up rather than descend based on his experience with a different search operation for a 2-year-old girl who was found on a mountain in the Oita city of Saiki in 2016.

It took just 30 minutes before he heard Yoshiki reply to his call, and found him sitting on the stone.

Yoshiaki Michishita, the deputy chief of a local police station, expressed gratitude to Obata and said the police thoroughly searched areas near where he was last seen and other locations taking into account the physical strength of the boy, who just turned 2 on Monday.

“It is regrettable that we could not find him earlier. We want to draw lessons from this experience,” he said.

First published in The Japan Times on Aug. 17.

Warm up

One-minute chat about miracles.


Collect words related to children, e.g., parent, toddler, cry.

New words

1) toddler: a young child, e.g., “It can be hard to travel with a toddler.”

2) elapse: to pass by, e.g., “Time elapses slowly at the office.”

Guess the headline

Survival of Japanese toddler, found after being lost for _ _ _ _ _ days, hailed as a mi_ _ _ _ _


1) Where was the boy found?

2) Who found the boy?

3) Why did the volunteer go to the spot where the boy was found?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about this issue?

2) Did you think he would be found alive?

3) What do you think we can learn from this story?




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