Photo/IllutrationA 22-year-old man visited this telephone booth in January this year. He had been abandoned there as a baby. (Junko Watanabe)

A 22-year-old man walked up a national road on a mountain in western Japan that gave him a commanding view of the sea. But his gaze was more focused on a telephone booth there.

“I’ve found it,” he said, and took a picture of the phone booth with his smartphone.

The first time the man was at the phone booth was 23 years ago, when he was an abandoned baby with his umbilical cord still attached.

The newborn had been wrapped with a towel and placed in a paper bag in spring.

In January this year, he returned to the phone booth seeking answers about the first few days of his life.

He has requested anonymity for the story.

He was 17 years old when his parents informed him that he was not their biological child.

One night after his parents slept, he found his maternal and child health handbook and noticed that the family name was written on white-out.

He shone a light on the back of the page and discerned a different family name under the white-out.

After he became a university student and started living alone, he looked into his official family registry. He found an address that he had never seen before.

As a 20-year-old, he visited the address in a town for the first time but could find no details about his biological parents.

Questions continued to cloud his thinking: “Didn’t my real parents have money?” “Were they too young?” “Was it OK for me to be born?”

He later read a newspaper article with headline, “Baby left in a telephone booth.” The telephone booth in the article was in the neighborhood of the address that he had uncovered.

So he visited the area again in January this year.

He asked a woman picking Japanese “mikan” tangerines in her garden: “Do you know … ? I heard that a baby was abandoned in that telephone booth 23 years ago.”

She directed him to a resident living on the opposite side of a bamboo grove who was said to know the story in detail.

He visited the resident’s house and was surprised to see that the nameplate on the door carried the same name that had been written under the white-out.

The owner of the house invited the man in, and the two sat on a “kotatsu” leg warmer in the living room.

“I came up with your name, hoping that you would grow up healthy,” the owner told him.

He responded, “I had never thought that I would be able to meet the person who gave me my name.”

The owner complimented the man on his health and explained that he used to be a municipal government official.

But he was not his biological father.

The owner was the one who had run to the telephone booth after being informed that a baby had been abandoned there.

He gave the baby his first name, which was used with the owner’s family name in the maternal and child health handbook.

The owner also told the man that he did not know anything about his biological parents.

Traffic was heavy on the mountain road during the 22-year-old man’s last visit. A community hall stands next to the road.

The man also heard that local people had often used the telephone booth where he had been placed as a newborn.

Although he never learned the identities of his real parents, he now feels that they wanted him to live.

In spring this year, he will leave his hometown to work in Tokyo.