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Travel & Leisure

Iconic Japanese bridge to shine on all year as a tourist lure

Prefectures aim to give the Great Seto Bridge an Olympic boost

The Great Seto Bridge is a series of double-deck bridges connecting the islands of Honshu and Shikoku. (Photo courtesy of Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway)

TAKAMATSU, Japan -- A bridge linking two of Japan's main islands will light up almost every night starting in fiscal 2020 as neighboring communities hope to draw more visitors with a million-dollar view.

The Great Seto Bridge -- actually several bridges connecting the nation's largest island of Honshu with Shikoku -- can currently turn on its lights just 80 days a year for a total of 300 hours under an agreement with the Environment Ministry.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics approaching, operator Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Co. set up an expert panel last July with neighboring Kagawa and Okayama prefectures to review the limit. They decided on a new schedule that December.

The bridge will be illuminated almost every night except July 7, when it will save energy for Cool Earth Day.

The lights will switch on at sunset. They will generally turn off at 10 p.m. from May to August and at 9 p.m. for the rest of the year. The lights will shut down earlier on certain days to facilitate astronomical observations.

In all, the Great Seto Bridge will be lit up 900 to 1,000 hours annually.

The idea is to help attract more tourists to the area. Kagawa Prefecture expects 2.74 billion yen ($25.2 million) in additional economic activity from the new schedule, while Okayama Prefecture sees 2.08 billion yen.

But first, the changes will need to be discussed with the Environment Ministry. Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway will explain that there is no observable negative impact on birds from keeping the lights on longer.

The bridge operator will continue to run surveys, especially on the anticipated economic windfall.

The ministry seems understanding toward revitalizing the regional economy. Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway aims to win approval by late February and publicize the lighting schedule after that.

Kagawa has been struggling to develop nighttime tourist attractions to retain travelers. The prefecture took in 9.41 million tourists in 2018, but only 28% of them spent the night within its borders.

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