There is no one Hyochakushin; it is a name, referring to a phenomenon, and the divine beings which precipitated it. Long ago, in Japan it was the case that most seagoing vessels were not suited to deep or open waters, so whales - vast creatures of the open sea - were regarded as sacred and beyond reach of hunting or whaling. On occasion, though, a whale might find itself drawn on-shore by currents or some other factor, and either beach itself, or find itself within hunting-range of sailors. This was a rare and auspicious event, as a single whale could provide enough food for a whole community,...