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Tsukiji market's last days: 'Turret trucks' add zip to predawn hours

A "turret truck" drives through Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, on Aug. 28, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- It is before dawn, and small transport vehicles called "turret trucks," with their cylindrical power units and 2-square-meter carrier beds, are already zipping around Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward.

The turret trucks fill fish orders from shops in the market, scooting back and forth between storehouses run by the middlemen and their customers. The little vehicles have no seat, making it easier for the operators to hop on and off.

There are more than 1,500 turret trucks in the market, all of them capable of very tight turns, so doing a 360 is no problem. They may be small, but they are also powerful enough to haul loads weighing up to two metric tons.

Katsutoyo Yamaguchi, the 68-year-old owner of tuna specialty wholesaler "Maguro no Yamaguchi," said, "The turret trucks are hard workers who never complain, even on rainy and windy days. We can't do without them."

The new Toyosu market in Tokyo's Koto Ward is a "closed facility" to maintain temperature and hygiene controls, so only zero-emission electric turret trucks will be allowed. That spells the end for the last few gasoline-powered trucks still in service.

(Japanese original by Kentaro Mori, City News Department)

* This series introduces scenes from the last days of the Tsukiji market in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, which is scheduled to end 83 years of history when it closes for relocation to the new Toyosu site in the capital's Koto Ward on Oct. 6, 2018.

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