Bad Parenting or Bad Luck?

3 Jun

Thought I’d weigh in on the missing 7-year-old boy story…..

Last Saturday a family from Hokkaido, the northern most island of Japan, was on a family outing. They were playing at a park when the son, age 7, started throwing stones at passing cars and people. He got told off by his parents. He ignored them, as we know is not uncommon with 7 year olds and their painted on ears. His parents got him in the car and threatened to drop him off in the mountains as punishment.

(insert – I remember throwing stones at passing cars when I was about this age. My friend and I sat in tall grass on a slope on the side of her section and had quite a good ole time – until a stone went in the open window of a passing car and hit a pregnant woman. Shit we got in trouble and I’m quite sure I pissed my pants. The woman was fine but her husband turned around and came and found us and gave us a right telling off – which was of course deserved and I think mum grounded me from playing with said friend for a few weeks.)

The whole leave-you-in-the-mountaings thing This is not an uncommon parenting technique here in Japan – well, down here, at the complete opposite end of the country, we also use the ‘if you don’t quit being so naughty I’ll be driving you up to the mountains’.  Down here, like Hokkaido, we are surrounded by mountains, mountains which are, according to Japanese myths and legends, home to various ‘鬼’ or ogres/demons. None of this Billy Goat’s Gruff shit.

Hub has actually said to Shou, at about the same age, take your pick. Which 鬼 do you want to go visit? The red-haired one up in that mountain or the blue-haired one up in that mountain over there. Today I asked my 6 English students (aged 9 – 11) if they had ever been threatened with this. They all had but it was only ever threatened. Being locked outside is also not uncommon – and I imagine it stems from families all living together and not actually having a physical room you can put a child in for the Western version of Time Out.

So anyway, they drive up a mountain road that is very very rarely used, as in a local said they would go up there maybe once a year, if that. The father drops the boy off, then drives off only to have the son running hysterically after the car, as you do. So they stop, let him get back in, he obviously doesn’t say the choice words the father is wanting to hear so he makes him get out again. I can almost hear this conversation in my head. Hub has said some very not nice things to my kids and I feel like I have had to be the calming force amongst the storm. In another country this might result in ‘wow, your husband is abusing the children’ type comments… but he isn’t. Different country, different culture and people making generalised rash comments about how much of an asshole the father is is just fuckin annoying. That said, he could actually be a fuckin asshole but quite frankly the fact that he is even out on a family day and involved enough to want to discipline his child is a good thing in Japan, I think, in my opinion, cause I’m a journalist and deserve my 2 cents worth (joking about the journalist bit by the way, in case anyone was wondering).

The parents then drive down the road about 500m and wait for a minute or two before going back to COLLECT THEIR SON. They didn’t leave him in a bear infested forest to die. They didn’t neglect him so they could spend more time on their iPhones. They waited approximately 240 seconds and then went back to get him.

He wasn’t there. Cause he is 7, and he is probably thinking shit, mum and dad are well angry and if they come back I’m going to get like grounded and have no 3DSD or PSP or iPad privileges for a week.

So he scarpers in the opposite direction and just keeps walking or running until he reaches a hut. The parents search for about 30 minutes and then call the police cause they are worried sick. They are too ashamed to say they left him there on purpose so they lie and say they were looking for mountain root vegetables (a very plausible family past time here in mountainous Japan) and the boy got lost….

which immediately makes the search party think the boy is either injured or lost in dense mountain root vegetable bush.

By this stage he has reached his hut, has water, has shelter – but can probably hear sirens and helicopters and is thinking, holy fuckin mother of god, if I come out now my parents will go ape shit at me. Will McGyver slash hanker down for a few days. (the hut was about 5km away and some people questioned whether a 7 year old could walk that far in that time….. these people must not be parents of 7 year old boys. Shou could run 2km in under 10 minutes when he was 7. If his sole intention was for his dad not to catch him then I think he could easily have gone this distance before a search team had even been assembled)

So he does, while his parents are dying in pain over the stupid decision they made to leave him for two minutes. While hundreds of people are spending valuable time and resources to search for him… While the world is calling the parents child abusers, shit parents – I mean people like this shouldn’t even be allowed kids right? Who leaves their child out in a forest to be bear food… … (on the bear thing – mountain tis not populous bear country. One is sited once every two years or so)

This story has pretty much rocked the nation this week and caused a lot of debate on parenting and such. The father lied at first, so perhaps he is lying again….. ….. but this is Japan and he was ashamed to ask for help – something very cultural. You deal with your own shit.

The sniffer dogs couldn’t find a lead – but that’s cause the boy didn’t go bush. Seriously, they spent most of their efforts searching the bush within a 3km radius. The boy was already (like within the first two hours of being missing) 5km away.

There are probably a lot of parents who thought the father had done something to the kid and was making up this elaborate story. I thought this too at first. Even when they had just found him the news reporters debated over whether he had been somewhere else and just dumped back at the hut because the whole thing was escalating too much.

So, the boy is fine. His clothes are not dirty – suggesting he found the shelter on the day he got dropped off. He has no injuries – Huuuraaah, cause had he gone into the bush he would probably have been dead by now. He said his own name, said he was hungry…. the self defense force guys that found him gave him a couple of rice balls and called the police.

Must say here that the hut he found was on self defense force property – almost ironic considering the number of self defense force people out searching for him for the past six days! A routine check was done on a hut this morning and the dude opened the door, saw the boy and asked ‘you mast be xxxxxx?’ to which the boy replied yes!!! End game.

I am presuming that the boy had to get through some kind of fence to get into self defense force territory…..


That fence be about as useful as the fence at that gorilla enclosure.

But in this case, am glad was shit fence and boy had shelter and McGyver survived for an entire fricken week on his 7-year-old bad ass own.


His mum was making him his favorite meal tonight 🙂

Yay – not often a news story like this ends this happily.



14 Responses to “Bad Parenting or Bad Luck?”

  1. jennifer arthur June 3, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

    Thanks for posting about this. I was certain there was a cultural twist to this but felt a bit ghoulish asking. Will we move on to “happy ever after” now? Does this help or hurt future parents from being successful in threatening with the mountains? Hope granny K is back home, your business is booming and life is all chocolates and rainbows.


    • gaijinwife June 3, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

      I was meant to go visit Granny K today but had to make BB8 cake for Ryu’s birthday party tomorrow – was completely shit too but have feeling the friends coming haven’t actually seen new star wars movie so will not matter (phew, wipes brow). I think the news this week is a HUGE wake up call to parents across the country. We, for one, will never be using that phrase again. Or perhaps will just change it to ‘let’s see how many days YOU survive in the mountains’….. am joking.

  2. xanaxjunkee June 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    Oh gosh, I had to laugh because we grew up with “threats” of being left outside or dropped off. And one time I actually was dropped off much to my surprise. However, it was on a rural road, no mountains for miles so I would have had a hard time of getting lost or finding shelter. Though my mom dropped my off roughly 5km from home. Still scared me but thinking back I am sure now it would be considered child abuse. I am actually scared to even attempt this parenting as the welfare services have already been called twice on us for bogus shit. I swear, you look at your kid the wrong way in the US you have welfare services on your door step so fast your head spins. And people wonder why kids are such shits these days, you really can’t punish them for their actions without being looked at as a shit parent. Event he schools resort to bribing and “positive” reinforcement… how do you positive reinforce a child for rubbing sand in another child’s face? Give them chocolate and sit them in the nurse office for part of the day talking to a counselor about feelings. -_- I gave the kiddo a proper spank on the bottom for that nonsense.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 9:48 am #

      LOL, positive reinforcement for throwing stones (rubbing sand in face etc). Bloody hell. I feel sorry for teachers these days. I’d love some chocolate and a day off school!!

  3. craftytokyomama June 3, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    Your news story was a hundred times better than the one on the front page of the paper today. Many more interesting details. I had no idea of this story until I saw your post. Some paper is missing out on a top writer.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 3:51 am #

      Thank you. I’ve probably got some facts wrong too! I haven’t seen the news since yesterday morning. Am sure there must be an update of how he is and if the parents will face any neglect charges.

  4. Kay Howe June 4, 2016 at 1:23 am #

    So glad he was found safe, if not sound. My parents never threatened to drop me off by the side of the road (this was prehistoric times, the 50s), but my mom would leave the house loudly proclaiming she was never coming back when my brother and I would not settle down for the night. Scared the crap out of me and I would cry myself to sleep. Never ever used that on my kids.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 3:52 am #

      I don’t think I’ve said I would never come back but I run away sometimes for the night!

  5. Lauren June 4, 2016 at 3:38 am #

    I remember my mum making me get out of the car when I was being a brat, probably around 7 or 8 years old, and then driving off. Of course she stopped and waited around the corner, thinking I would walk down the road. I was a precocious little tart though and thought “I’ll show you for trying to pull that on me” and I took off in the opposite direction and hid in bushes. Saw mum come back looking for me and I waited a good couple of minutes to torture her before I came out. Got a bit of a hiding but still felt like I had the upper hand. When I heard the boy had disappeared so quickly my first thought was that he might have taken off at great speed to scare the shit out of his parents as ‘pay back’ for leaving him.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 3:46 am #

      God, your mum must have been frantic! I think that yeah, the boy either wanted some pay back or he just didn’t want his dad to catch him again. I bet he never throws stones at people again!

  6. littlebelgianwriter June 4, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    This news has made the papers in Europe too today.
    I read your story yesterday, It is all to easy to say this is bad parenting.
    Glad the kid is safe.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 9:46 am #

      It is too easy, especially for people that don’t have the cultural background, who don’t know that threatening to take a child into the mountains is something a lot of Japanese people grow up with. Most parents don’t follow through but some do and I imagine in 99% of cases the child learns their lesson. So glad the kid is safe. I fricken cried when it came up on the news – probably because I have said the same things to my children, I knew how the parents were probably feeling and oh, the relief that the boy was safe. One can almost guarantee he never throws rocks again – and in fact if he does anything naughty I’m pretty sure a simple ‘you remember what happened last time we took you into the mountains’ will suffice!!

  7. Lisa Case June 4, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    My mom kicked my sassing butt out of the car, at night, 8 miles from the nearest town. (probably about 6 to home in the country) when I was 15. My brother, bless him, knew how nuts it was to dump a girl along a highway at night (though I deserved it) and jumped out of the car too. Mom drove home. LOLOLOL Brother and I walked back into town to our married sisters house…got chewed out by her and then spent the night there.

    • gaijinwife June 4, 2016 at 11:13 am #

      and your still here to tell the tale!! Amen. Bless your brother, what a good dude. Bet the lesson was learnt 🙂

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