National

Toddler found safe after three days missing on Yamaguchi Prefecture island

Kyodo

A 2-year-old boy was found safe and well Wednesday after going missing for three days during a visit to a small island in western Japan, police said.

“I’m here,” shouted Yoshiki Fujimoto of Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, when he heard his name called by a male volunteer who was participating in the search. He was found on a mountain near his great-grandfather’s home in the town of Suo-Oshima on Yashiro Island, also in Yamaguchi Prefecture, according to the police.

Barefoot and seated when found, Yoshiki ate a candy from his rescuer who wrapped him in a towel before going down the mountain to inform police officers about to begin the day’s search shortly before 7 a.m., the police said. Dr. Yoshimasa Takenoshita, who conducted a medical check on the boy, said he showed symptoms of dehydration but was otherwise fine. “I was surprised to find him in good health. I think he has a strong capacity for survival,” the doctor said.

Yoshiki was soon reunited with his family, including his 37-year-old mother, Mio, who was in tears, according to the police.

“I would like to thank the police, rescuers and local people,” said Yoshiki’s 66-year-old grandfather, Masanori Fujimoto, who was the last person with him before he disappeared. “I apologize, as it was me that took my eyes off him.”

The area where Yoshiki was found, located above a tangerine orchard, was a place not many local people visit according to a 78-year-old man living nearby.

Some 140 police and rescue personnel had been mobilized to search for the boy, and Haruo Obata, a 78-year-old resident of Oita Prefecture, who joined search efforts from Tuesday as a volunteer, found him at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the police said.

Yoshiki arrived at his great-grandfather’s home on the island on Sunday morning with his mother and went missing after leaving the home with his grandfather and older brother to go to a beach about 400 meters away.

The boy tried to return on his own after walking about 100 meters from the home and disappeared, police said. He turned two while missing as his birthday fell on Monday.

The weather was stable in the area for most of the time his whereabouts were unknown, with the lowest temperature at 24 degrees Celsius and the highest 34 C. It rained intermittently on Wednesday morning, according to the Meteorological Agency.

The discovery of the toddler brought relief to the rescuers and local people who had heard his mother calling out to him through a public loudspeaker the day before.

“I am glad he was found. I have a child of similar age so I thought it could happen to my family,” said a 39-year-old man from Hiroshima who was visiting the home of his parents near to where the boy went missing.