Animal activists' anger after aquarium puts Santa hats on whales
But environmentalists are saddened by the sight of what they say is the final humiliation for the whale in a country that hunts them down with harpoons.
The beluga whales have been fitted out with the cute Santa hats to entertain the crowds at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise on Yokohama Island.
There's even a chance to receive a wet kiss under the mistletoe from a yuletide beluga.
Beluga whales have been fitted out with the Santa hats in a bid to draw in the Christmas crowds at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise on Yokohama Island, Japan
Yet while the white belugas are entertaining the crowds, their humpback cousins are facing a brutal end in cold storage at the hands of Japanese whalers in Antarctica.
Hunting ships are already on their way to the icy reaches of the Southern Ocean, where this year's catch of 1,000 will include humpbacks for the first time in 40 years.
Ironically, among the possible targets is another extremely rare, if not unique, white whale - a humpback - Australians have named Migaloo, which means 'white fella' in the Aborigine language.
Greenpeace said it was 'unfortunate' most Japanese people only got to see whales in novelty type contexts
The hunting expedition also plans to kill 50 fin whales, the world's second largest animal after blue whales, as 850 smaller minke whales.
Wildlife officials say the display of the white belugas wearing Santa hats is both sad and ironic against the background of the Antarctic hunts, due to start in the region after Christmas.
"While whales are being used for entertainment in Japan, the Japanese fleet is subjecting whales to a cruel death in the Southern Ocean," said Mr Darren Kindleysides, a Sydney-based campaigner for the International Fund for Wildlife.
"Sadly, the aquarium owners seem to be showing as little respect for whales as their Government."
An Australian whale-watching official, Mr Peter Lynch, said the aquarium display was disrespectful to the whales, adding: "The real irony lies in the fact that the general population in Japanhave no idea what's going on in Antarctica."
While the white belugas are entertaining the crowds, their humpback cousins are facing a brutal end in cold storage at the hands of Japanese whalers in Antarctica
Greenpeace said it was "unfortunate" most Japanese people only got to see whales in novelty type contexts.
However, the Australian government will be casting a different eye over the activities of the Japanese whalers in Antarctica - it plans to send a former P&O cruise ship, now converted into an armed vessel, to the region to monitor the hunting.
Following high-level talks, the vessel, Oceanic Viking, which has a reinforced hull to cut through ice, will be leased to the government to track the Japanese whaling ships and keep a check on their activities.
The crew is trained for polar conditions and they will use 'super-telephoto' lenses to record the whale slaughter.
In addition, the ship will have two .50-calibre machine guns manned by a customs boarding party should a clash of any kind with the Japanese vessels occur.
Australia's new Labour Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has accused the former John Howard government of doing nothing to save the endangered whales, adding that nobody took seriously Japan's claim that it was conducting scientific research.