Japan thanked Iranian officials on Sunday for their efforts to secure the release of a Japanese student who was kidnapped in the Middle Eastern country's lawless border area last year.
Satoshi Nakamura, 23, was released late Saturday, eight months after he was abducted while traveling alone on Iran's southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"We express our profound gratitude to Iranian officials who provided all-out effort for his release," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said in a statement.
In his hometown Toyonaka in western Japan, his father, Kiyotaka Nakamura, told a televised news conference his son called late Saturday.
"I was so relieved that my son sounded the way he was before," Nakamura's father said. "I apologize he has caused so much trouble, and thank you for all your support."
Foreign Ministry officials and Nakamura's father were expected to head to Tehran on Sunday to meet him.
Iran's Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseini Ejehi said drug smugglers and armed bandits were responsible for the kidnapping, Iran's official news agency IRNA reported. "The Japanese government firmly condemns the contemptible criminal act of kidnapping," Komura said.
No other details about Nakamura's release were given, including whether a ransom payment was made.
Bandits kidnapped 12 Iranians in the area in August but security forces from Pakistan freed them after clashing with the gunmen.