Photo/Illutration The carcass of “Yodo-chan” the whale is towed near the mouth of the Yodogawa river in Osaka Bay on the morning of Jan. 18 before being transferred to a workboat. (Satoru Ogawa)

OSAKA--As onlookers said goodbye, a 15-meter dead sperm whale affectionally called "Yodo-chan" began the process of being buried at sea on the morning of Jan. 18.

The carcass, floating in shallow waters in Osaka Bay, was towed to shore by a boat. Around 11:30 a.m., the vessel tugging the whale passed under the Konohana-Ohashi bridge.

The carcass, which was brought to the quay in Osaka Bay, was transported by crane to a large workboat that day.

Officials will remove the built-up methane gas from the decomposing carcass to avoid an explosion and experts then will conduct a scientific investigation.

The workboat carrying the carcass is planned to be transported off the Kii Channel by two tugboats.

On the afternoon of Jan. 19, weights will be attached to the carcass and it will be released at sea, officials said.

The whale wandered into Osaka Bay and was first spotted near the mouth of the Yodogawa river in the city on Jan. 9.

The rare spectacle of a massive marine mammal attracted national media attention and drew crowds to the shoreline. The whale was dubbed Yodo-chan after the river.

However, Osaka city officials confirmed that the whale was dead on Jan. 13 after a close-up inspection.

In July 2021, when a whale carcass was found in Osaka Bay, it was buried on land and the flesh was allowed to decompose naturally following a request by the Osaka Museum of Natural History.

The skeleton is stored at the museum and used as a specimen for academic study.

This time, however, no such offer was made for the deceased mammal.

Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui told reporters on Jan. 17, “I want to send the whale back home to the ocean posthumously because it came from there.”