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Mīnishi is written with the characters 新北風—new north wind—and as you might suspect from these ideograms, the name mīnishi refers to the north wind that foretells the coming of winter, but troublingly, if you ask a local meteorological observatory, they’ll tell you that there’s no real definition for mīnishi
 In the Okinawan Almanac, the explanation of mīnishi reads, “As the islands enter late autumn, high pressure systems from continental Asia reach the subtropical areas in question (Okinawa), and a north-easterly wind that demarcates the seasons begins to blow,” but I think most average people have a slightly different notion about what mīnishi really is. 

Mīnishi is a biting north wind that blows from mid- to late-November. Before the mīnishi arrives, even our southern Okinawa is cool and pleasant from morning to evening, but overnight the breeze that was so agreeable becomes a bitter cold mīnishi. It is the wind that first makes Okinawan’s feel winter has arrived. Anyone who’s lived here knows that our sense of the changing season comes not from some almanac but rather from the feeling on our skin. The coming of the mīnishi is also when the migratory gray-faced buzzard makes its way from distant northern lands down south to Okinawa.
 The day a mīnishi first blows, people don’t make a big deal of it—they don’t go around home, school, and work grinning and exclaiming “Mīnishi!”—but it’s not nothing either. Though meteorological observatories say there’s no definition for mīnishi, there were times where you’d see the headline, “Brrr! Mīnishi blowing” in the society pages of the newspaper.

There are many different reasons why people delight in this wind, but one reason is that you can at last wear long sleeves without getting any sidelong glances. For women acutely conscious of fashion trends, the mīnishi hails the turning point into a more elegant clothing season. Seeing women around town enjoying their winterwear, even men begin to feel Okinawa’s late winter season, back for another year. Students who, forced into their winterwear early by school uniform codes, complain endlessly about how hot they are view the mīnishi as their savior. 
 For Okinawans, who can spend two thirds of the year in T-shirts and shorts, “cold” is always remarkably fresh and dramatic. In the times before adequate heaters, I wonder if people found the mīnishi too bracing. In those days, people often expressed their care for others, particularly pregnant women, by saying, “If the mīnishi’s blowing, you be sure to treat yourself with grace” (the Okinawan way of saying “take care of yourself”).

There are other local sayings that also refer to cold weather, like “tunjībīsa,” which refers to the cold that visits on the winter solstice, or “mūchībīsa,” which refers to the chill on the eighth day of the twelfth month by the lunar calendar (early- to mid-November by the modern calendar)—this was a day set aside for making mūchī, an Okinawan mochi snack. This time of year is a strange one, because shockingly cold weather continues for days on end. I’m always impressed when I think of ancient peoples’ sense of the weather, which was based only on their first-hand experiences.
 In contrast to the mīnishi, Okinawans rarely pay any attention to summer winds. We have terms like urizun for the southern wind that portends spring or kāchibē for the southern wind that blows on the summer solstice, but you almost never hear those words anymore. For busy contemporary Okinawans, the blowing of the southern wind is unremarkable. I feel a little sorry for it.