KOJIMA, Okayama Pref. — At 8 a.m. every weekday, several high school students await their trains here at JR Kojima Station for an unusual trip — a 20-km commute across the Seto Onland Sea to their school in Shikoku.

The islands of Honshu and Shikoku were connected for the first time in April 1988 by the 18.5-km Seto Ohashi Bridge, spurring a geographical integration reflected by the increase in such students. Despite the new linkage by road and railway, however, local economies on both sides of the bridge have not fared as well as expected.

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