In an effort to increase recognition abroad as well as prevent smirks, giggles, or shocked stares from English speakers, more businesses and private organizations are dropping the regional name “Kinki” from their titles and replacing it with “Kansai.”

On Wednesday, the 71-member Kinki Federation of Chambers of Commerce voted to change its name to the Kansai Federation of Chambers of Commerce. The group includes chambers from cities and towns in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga and Wakayama prefectures, as well as those in Fukui Prefecture.

The name change comes partially because Kinki sounds like “kinky” to native speakers of English and has long been the subject of mostly bad (but occasionally clever) jokes among foreign residents and visitors.

Other reasons are related to the larger regional strategy of creating recognition abroad for the name Kansai. Foreign tourists who come to the region use Kansai International Airport. Local business organizations and associations of local political leaders use Kansai instead of Kinki in their official names. In conversation, people refer to themselves as being residents of Kansai, not Kinki.

The difference between Kansai and Kinki is more historical, cultural and administrative than geographical. The name Kinki dates back almost 1,300 years and refers to ancient provinces in and around the then-capital of Kyoto. Kansai referred to the land west of the Osaka toll gate (roughly the current border between today’s Shiga and Kyoto prefectures).

Today, the central government uses Kinki as the official administrative term for the region, while the name Kansai is promoted locally as an area with a shared culture and history that is distinct from Tokyo.

Other organizations originally named Kinki are discarding it to become more appealing to the English-speaking world include Osaka’s Kinki University. From April, it will change its name to Kindai University in the hope of attracting more international students.

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