ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now, the story of two children switched at birth. In Tokyo, a court has ordered a hospital to pay damages to a 60-year-old man who recently discovered that he was sent home from the hospital with the wrong parents. The man's biological family was wealthy. The family that took him home was poor. The judge in the case found that the hospital mix-up deprived the man of an opportunity to gain a higher education and has ordered the operator of the hospital to pay some $300,000.
For more on the story, we've called Lucy Craft in Tokyo. Take us back 60 years ago. What happened when this man went home from the hospital with the wrong parents? Where did his life go from there?
LUCY CRAFT, BYLINE: Yeah. It's really the tale of a prince and a pauper. There were two babies born within a few minutes of each other. Both of them ended up going home with the wrong mother. And in one family, the father dies fairly young, single mother struggles to raise three boys on welfare. They're stuck in a tiny apartment. It's only 100 square feet.
Meanwhile, the other boy grows up in a big house, a garden with a pond, tutors, private university. He grows up and becomes the president of a real estate company and boy number one starts working at a factory after junior high school to support his family and life kind of goes downhill from there.
SHAPIRO: And the man who was raised poor became a truck driver, who has asked to remain anonymous, gave a news conference this week. Tell us a little bit about what he said.
CRAFT: It was a very emotional news conference. He was telling this harrowing story.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language)
CRAFT: He says March 30th, 1953, my birthday, I want to turn the clock back to that time. When I learned about my real parents two years ago, I thought, oh, how I wish they had raised me. It's just impossible to understand what this person was going through and that's part of the reason people have expressed so much sympathy for him. He's shown so much grace and humility considering this horrendous experience he's going through.
SHAPIRO: Did he say anything about how he feels towards the family that raised him?
CRAFT: Yes. He says he feels grateful to both the family that raised him and to his birth parents. And he also says he feels no enmity or resentment or bitterness towards the boy who switched places with him. He said we're both victims in this, so I can't be angry at him.
SHAPIRO: Do we know how the mix-up happened?
CRAFT: We don't know the details and unfortunately the people who perpetrated this tragedy are long gone from the scene. But NHK, the state broadcasting network, dug up some records from something called the Japanese Society of Legal Medicine and they found that between 1957 and 1971, this is shortly after this person's case occurred, 32 cases of switched babies were recorded. So it's something that happened with awful regularity, apparently.
SHAPIRO: Wow. And how did the story of this switch come out more than half a century later?
CRAFT: In 2009, after the parents, the rich parents died, the - the four surviving brothers, I should say, the three younger ones became suspicious of the eldest brother. He didn't resemble them in any way. And so they decided to check him out and they did DNA sampling and they found that the DNA didn't match.
They went back to the hospital. They checked the records. They tracked down the other brother and got his DNA sample and then their suspicions were confirmed.
SHAPIRO: You know, in the United States, despite talk of income inequality, we have this ethos that anyone can grow up to become anything despite the circumstances of their birth and their childhood. Does the same exist in Japan?
CRAFT: Well, a lot bloggers have posted about this. They've pointed out that this boy did show a lot more initiative than the family he was raised with. While everyone else stopped their schooling at junior high, he went on to pay for and put himself through vocational school, but he ended up, in the end, just being a truck driver.
And a lot of people have said that this is proof positive that it doesn't matter what your background is, nature cannot overcome nurture, and people who are born into poverty are doomed to stay there. This isn't completely true. One of the richest men in Japan, (unintelligible) also comes from very humble beginnings. But certainly for the majority of people in Japan this is certainly the case.
SHAPIRO: Reporter Lucy Craft in Tokyo. Thanks so much, Lucy.
CRAFT: My pleasure.
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