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Japanese School Says It Won't Be Kinki Anymore

An image of the Kinki University website. The school plans to change its name, citing possible misunderstandings by English speakers.
Kinki University
An image of the Kinki University website. The school plans to change its name, citing possible misunderstandings by English speakers.

In an effort to broaden its international appeal, a Japanese college is phasing out its titter-inducing name. Osaka's Kinki University is named for its home region in south-central Japan. But school officials say the name is distracting; they note that foreigners who attend conferences there often make jokes about their visit to the Kinki school.

Kinki University is a success, its leaders say. Its website touts its law school and its fisheries research; several athletes from the school won medals at the London Summer Olympics. But then there's that name. The school wants to change it before they make a push for more international recognition.

"We aim to get more foreign students coming here, so we've decided to change our English name to ensure there is no misunderstanding," Kinki University spokesman Ishihiro Seko tells The Japan Times.

The college's new name will be Kindai University, based on a contraction of its official name.

As the Japan Times notes, the school is far from alone in its quest to avoid a Japanese name or word that sounds awkward in another language:

"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."

The newspaper says the name was explained as a combination of "Fuku" and "happy." As The Guardian reported last year, Fukushima Industries makes industrial cooling systems.

Despite the move by Kinki University, there's no word on whether the area's Hotel Kinki plans to follow suit.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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