In a move aimed at sparing its students and faculty embarrassment, a private university on Friday ditched its distracting English name for a more benign moniker.

Kinki University in Osaka Prefecture became Kindai University, holding a ceremony to unveil a plate bearing the new name in English at one of its gates. School athletes wearing uniforms bearing the new name attended the ceremony.

Friday marked the start of the new academic year.

The decision to change the name was made two years ago. As the university had been placing greater emphasis on foreign languages and international studies, it believed the previous English name was off-putting to foreign students.

University President Hitoshi Shiozaki said at the time, "I did not feel good about the giggles which were caused when introducing myself at academic meetings abroad."

Kindai is an abbreviation of the university's Japanese name, Kinki Daigaku, which remains unchanged.

Mei Ichinose, a 19-year-old student whose father is British, welcomed the new name saying, "My (paternal) grandmother gave me a bewildered look when I told her, 'Kinki University.' "

President Shiozaki said during the ceremony that with the new name, Kindai will "keep plugging away to become more globalized."

The university says Kinki derives from Kinai, a large administrative district in western Japan dating back to the 7th century that included parts of current Nara, Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

Kinki means "the capital and surrounding areas."