The Yomiuri newspaper in Tokyo says the government will announce the resumption of whaling very shortly.
Yomiuri says the centre-left government has decided that giving in to the militant Sea Shepherd organisation would be against the national interest.
That means this year's hunt will go ahead, and we can expect another round of confrontations in the ocean south of Australia.
Last season Sea Shepherd's harassing tactics saw the Japanese fleet retreat with just a fifth of its quota.
But this year the Japanese Government will boost the budget of the whaling program to protect crew members.
Our correspondent Mark Willacy joins me from Tokyo.
Mark, Japan's gone through a pretty awful year financially, economically, it seems like a strange time to spend a lot of money on whaling?
MARK WILLACY: That's right. We've had the triple disasters of the earthquake, the tsunami, then the nuclear meltdowns and that has added some very big bottom lines to Japan's deficit and its public debt.
So we've got a situation where, across the board, the Japanese government is trying to cut programs but now we're hearing from the Yomiuri Shimbun, the biggest newspaper, the biggest selling newspaper, in Japan, that the program will continue, that it will go ahead. And basically, as you alluded to in the introduction, this is about national pride.
The Japanese do not want to give in to Sea Shepherd, they don't want to bow to the threats and the obstruction they've seen on the high seas, they're going to keep face and they're going to ensure that whaling will survive.
MARK COLVIN: How much is it going to cost to send the whaling fleet out?
MARK WILLACY: That's a very good question. It's often treated as a bit of a state secret. We've been told all sorts of figures but we believe roughly around $40 million a year. And what we're hearing out of the Yomiuri newspaper today is that they're going to beef up safety measures for the whaling crews, and to do that they're going to inject 2 billion yen, or about $AU27 million into the whaling program.
What we also know is that the Japanese coastguard, though, has turned down a request to protect the whaling fleet. Apparently it doesn't think it can do that adequately and with enough authority in international waters. But, you know, if this report is right, we are going to see yet again more clashes this year in the Antarctic between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whalers.
MARK COLVIN: Well the coastguard probably only has a jurisdiction within Japanese waters, what about the Japanese navy itself?
MARK WILLACY: There has been absolutely no mention of that all. Obviously Japan has a passivist constitution which restricts what its military does and where it goes and the activities it can engage in, so no mention at all about the navy. As I said, the coastguard was requested to go down and shadow the whaling fleet. It's running a mile from that; it's saying no we can't do it with any great effect, so it will not happen.
MARK COLVIN: Well they're spending millions on it, do they get much back?
MARK WILLACY: Look, according to some of the people who were involved in a review of the whaling program this year, no they don't.
I spoke a couple of months ago to one of the panel members who was reviewing this process her name was Hisa Anan. And she said, look, it's time to scrap this so-called scientific whaling program for a number of reasons. One, if we want to keep researching whales there are non-lethal ways of doing it, we don't have to kill them.
She also pointed out to me that there are growing stockpiles of whale meat, tonnes and tonnes of it sitting unwanted in industrial freezers around the country. No-one's eating it. Whale restaurants are popular with a certain demographic, generally older Japanese, but young people they won't touch it with a barge pole.
MARK COLVIN: Well if this is about saving face or national pride - whatever you want to call it - is it a popular move do you think?
MARK WILLACY: Look I think most Japanese don't engage in this debate at all. But one thing, given the disasters that have befallen Japan this year, with the tsunami, the nuclear meltdown, and the cost that is now being thrust upon the Japanese public, there could very well be a section of the population who thinks this is just over the top.
This is a program Japan doesn't need in a time of financial crisis when there are people without homes, there are communities that have been totally wiped out. That money, that whaling money could possibly be better spent on those sorts of programs.
That is probably what the Japanese government is going to now face, that sort of opposition to whaling.
MARK COLVIN: Thank you very much Mark.
Mark Willacy is our Tokyo correspondent.