Many items go by different names according to region.

"Nikuman" (meat-filled steamed dumpling) in the Kanto area becomes "butaman" (pork-filled steamed dumpling) in Kansai.

The difference is said to stem from the fact that "niku" usually implies beef in Kansai. But since the dumpling's filling is pork and not beef, the locals apparently feel compelled to emphasize this fact.

This also seems to reflect Kansai's historical background, which is that cattle, rather than horses, were usually raised for farm work.

According to "Gokai Sareyasui Hogen Shojiten" (Little lexicon of often-misunderstood dialect), what Kanto people call "kake udon" (no-frills soup udon), "kushi-age" (deep-fried skewered food) and "takikomi gohan" (seasoned steamed rice) are known in Kansai, respectively, as "su udon," "kushi-katsu" and "kayaku gohan."

There may be subtle differences in how these food items are prepared in Kanto and Kansai, but they are basically the same.

Now, what's the difference between "kingaku" (amount of money) and "kakaku" (price)?

During a recent Diet questioning session concerning the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, Mitsuru Ota, director-general of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, stated, "Negotiations were made with regard to the amount of money (kingaku), but we did not indicate the selling price (kakaku)."

Unable to refute the validity of an audio tape incriminating the Finance Ministry of talking monetary figures with Moritomo Gakuen, Ota was obviously and desperately insisting that there was never any negotiation on the selling price of the government-owned land that was being sold to Moritomo Gakuen.

Thus, this ludicrous sophistry, which did not help one bit to explain the government's justification for slashing the price of the land--the market value was in excess of 900 million yen ($8 million)--to a little over 100 million yen.

With the government repeating explanations that demonstrate no inclination to explain the situation to the public, the current special session of the Diet is scheduled to conclude Dec. 9.

Until the year-end, the government and the ruling coalition will be discussing their income tax hike plan. The filing of "kakutei shinkoku" (income tax returns) will begin in February.

Nobuhisa Sagawa, who earlier this year consistently ignored the Moritomo Gakuen scandal in the Diet as the chief of the Finance Ministry's Financial Bureau, now heads the National Taxation Agency.

This is the man who failed to explain the government's handling of a public asset. But Abe insists that Sagawa's appointment as the nation's highest taxation official represents "the right man in the right place."

To Abe, all I can say is, "You've got to be kidding me."

That's "jyodan desho" in Kanto, and "usoyaro" in Kansai.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 6

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.