The name Tonka isn’t Japanese, it’s Minnesotan.
In 1957, a group of school teachers decided to augment their meager incomes by manufacturing garden tools.
After investing in materials, they decided that marketing the tools was going to be too difficult with the budget they had, so they abandoned their plans.
To use up the left-over sheet metal and paint, they built a few playthings for children.
One sturdy little dump truck looked like it had possibilities, so the teacher entrepreneurs showed it around toy stores and toy shows.
“What do you call it?” someone asked.
A pun came to mind from the name of nearby Lake Minnetonka, so the teachers called them “Mini Tonka Trucks.”
The company has since sold more than 30 million of them.
Presumably the teachers were able to quit their day jobs.