31 - Frozen-Solid Tofu... and Waterfalls

When Rei and I were living in Sapporo, I developed an unhealthy obsession with--and love for--a certain brand of green tea flavored ice cream.

The Super Cup!

suupaa kappu maccha
Green Tea (Matcha) Super Cup

There was just one problem--it was only uber-delicious when it was hardcore frozen solid.

So I turned our fridge to max power.

The result?

Ice cream: Rock-solid frozen.

Everything else in the fridge: Rock-solid frozen.

Milk? Frozen.
Sauces? Frozen.
Tofu? Frozen.

And Rei pulled out the tofu, and she said:

toufu kachin kochin!
The tofu's frozen solid!
(Literally: "tofu + frozen solid.")

And I was like, "ka-chin, ko-what?"

And after making her repeat it 37 times, I learned that this is the onomatopoeic word for "frozen solid:"

ka chin ko chin!

I use it all the time now, because other words for frozen confuse me to no end.


toufu kootteru.
The tofu is frozen.
(Literally: "tofu + is frozen.")

This is the verb 凍る (kooru). Take note of the long "o" sound.

It's particularly hard for me to say the って (tte) after the long こお (koo).

Another example of this word:

mizuumi ga kootteimasu.
The lake is frozen.
(Literally: "lake + が + is frozen.")

(Note: The structure of this sentence is essentially the same as the last one, only it's not as casual. That's why we don't drop the particle が [ga] and we say 凍っています [kootte imasu] instead of 凍ってる [kootteru].)

(Note #2: I took that picture in Nikko, Japan... about 5 years ago *_*. The guy standing by that frozen lake is a Buddhist monk that drove us around in his car for the day. It was one of the coolest trips I've ever been on.)

( ↑ Frozen waterfall from that same trip to Nikko.)

taki ga kootteru!
The waterful is frozen!
(Literally: "waterfall + が + is frozen.")

Woah, hold on.

If this latest example is casual, why does it have が (ga)?

Well, a frozen waterfall is pretty amazing right?

I mean:

We can generally think of が (ga) as the pointer particle. So we're impressed and/or surprised that a waterfall is frozen, and "point out" this waterfall a bit more by including が (ga).

You could say that sentence without が (ga):

taki kootteru.
The waterful is frozen.
(Literally: "waterfall + is frozen.")

But the nuance would be that you don't think it's a big deal that a waterfall is frozen. It sounds like an everyday thing not worth especially pointing out... like frozen tofu.

Getting a real sense for particles like this will take time, so I wouldn't worry about it too much. Like me, you're just going to mess them up all the time... and get better... very... very... slowly.

Until writing this lesson (and bugging Rei with a bunch of questions), I actually did not know the difference between 凍る (kooru) and 凍える (kogoeru).

My dictionary says:

be frozen; be numb (with cold); be chilled (to the bone).

freeze; freeze over; become frozen.

So that's not a lot of help.

Here's my simplified version:

凍る (kooru) is for when stuff is actually frozen, and 凍える (kogoeru) is for when you (i.e. a human being) feel frozen.


yubi ga kogoete ugokanai.
My fingers are so cold that I can't move them.
(Literally: "fingers + が + are frozen + won't move.")

After this you might say:

moji utenai.
I can't type anything (on my phone).
(Literally: "letters + cannot type/hit.")

So much to learn. So little time...

Bonus Phrases

スーパーカップ の まっちゃ あじ が いちばん すき。
The Green Tea Supercup is my favorite.