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Kinki no more: With eye on foreign students, university opts for new name

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BY TOMOHIRO OSAKI

It has great teaching and research, and student intake numbers to be proud of. But there is one thing nobody envies about Kinki University: its name.

Perhaps fed up with being the butt of jokes by English speakers, Kinki in Osaka will rename itself Kindai University from April 2016, when it launches a new department offering courses taught in foreign languages — and tries to broaden its international profile.

Kindai is a contraction of “Kinki Daigaku,” the university’s official Japanese name. And while “Kinki” refers to the region of Honshu in which the school is located, the English term “kinky” can denote a preference for peculiar sexual behavior.

The university is frank about its discomfort. Foreigners attending conferences often have a good old chuckle, President Hitoshi Shiozaki told a news conference Tuesday, adding that in a global age the university needs to appear businesslike in any language.

“We aim to get more foreign students coming here, so we’ve decided to change our English name to ensure there is no misunderstanding,” spokesman Ishihiro Seko told The Japan Times on Wednesday.

English-speakers had a similar chance to snicker last October when Osaka-based Fukushima Industries Corp. launched a new corporate mascot, a cartoon character haplessly named Fukuppy. Some commentators unkindly joked that the mascot should be the emblem of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Unlike Kinki, however, Fukushima Industries remains unrepentant: as of Wednesday, the moniker remained unchanged on its corporate website. A spokesman was unavailable for comment.

The firm said in a written statement in December that after much discussion it stood by the name out of consideration for its origins, which combine “Fuku” from Fukushima with “happy.” (The Japan Times)

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