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Kinki be gone: Japanese university changes name to attract foreign students

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You might wonder, ”What on earth do they teach at Kinki University?” After being the (excuse me) butt of jokes from English-speakers, Japan’s Kinki University is finally changing its name to Kindai University to put an end to all those chuckles.

So what if the university has great teaching and research, plus student intake numbers that make it proud. It has that name, and that is the one thing absolutely nobody envies about Osaka's Kinki University.

English speakers will laugh no more as Kinki will rename itself Kindai University starting April 2016, when it introduces its new department offering courses taught in foreign languages, as the university tries to broaden its international profile.

The name Kindai is actually a contraction of “Kinki Daigaku,” the university’s official Japanese name. Kinki refers to the region of Honshu in which the school is located, and “daigaku” means “university” in Japanese. In English, the term “kinky” can mean a preference for peculiar sexual behavior.

The jokes and crude laughter have made the university justifiably uncomfortable. Foreigners attending conferences at the school often have a few laughs, university President Hitoshi Shiozaki told a news conference last week, he then added that “in a global age the university needs to appear businesslike in any language.”

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

Last October English-speakers had a similar laugh-fest opportunity when Fukushima Industries Corp, based in Osaka, launched its new corporate mascot, a cartoon character unfortunately named Fukuppy. Seizing the opportunity, some commentators meanly joked that the mascot should be the symbol of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant.

The joke was lost on Fukushima Industries however, and it remains shameless; as of last week the new mascot remained unchanged on its corporate website.

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