I don’t have much information on when and how Tonka began working with Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai to make Tiny Tonka and related toys (there are many, though typically of a similar scale [see the train below]), but it was sometime in the mid- or late-1970s (this website puts it generally in the 1970s). Children of the 1980s will of course remember Bandai’s big toy (and cartoons and other stuff) hits like the Go-Bots. Interestingly, Bandai was making pickups that were clearly inspired by the early Tiny Tonkas in the late 1960s like the blue truck here. I’m happy to revise this if anyone has additional information!
While Bandai made a number a number of Tiny Tonkas (anything stamped “made in Japan” was made by then, AFAIK) that were sold in the U.S., Canada, and overseas, this page is dedicated to those made solely for the Japanese market. It’s hard to know with some of these when they’re not boxed; some with P&H logos appear to be exactly the same as those made for non-Japanese markets.
With that, it’s time to go onto the (clearly) Japanese Tinies!
Japan-made Boom Crane (model 680): This is one of the more famous of the larger Tiny Tonkas. It featured an extended chassis (by way of a plastic flat-bed riveted to the basic semi chassis) on which was mounted the swivel crane. From all I’ve seen, these and those made for the UK and other markets were all made by Bandai in Japan under license of Tonka, but these Japanese-market boom cranes were labeled with the P&H company logo and came in a box in Japanese. Doug graciously provided photos of this nice example.
Japanese snorkel pumper. An interesting snorkel pumper from Japan. See the tinytonkatoys.com for another example. These appear to be from the late 1970s, but I haven’t see a box or other material to confirm this.
Doug sent me these great examples of the Snorkel Pumper in September, 2020. You can see that this model was made in two forms; one without a hose or pump, and one that sprayed water after filling a small reservoir and pushing the pump button. Pretty cool!
Water Sprinkler. Doug sent me this great example of a water sprinkler. Somewhat similar to the US-made gasoline tankers or the Carnation milk truck, but these, like some of the Snorkel Pumpers, featured a reservoir and pump button which allowed the truck to spray water from the back (see diagram on the box in the second picture).
Wrecker. Made in Japan for the Japanese market. This same design was used by Tonka Rico / Mini-Sanson for many years, but never (as far as I know) made in the U.S. Notice the door sticker has the country of manufacture printed on it (“Tonka Japan”) like many others in this era like those from Canada or New Zealand. An interesting “feature” of this toy (and a trash truck I also have; identical to the U.S. version) is that the plastic on the hubs had reacted with the rubber on the tires over the 30+ years this toy sat in storage. The hubs (which aren’t the same hard PVC [?] of nearly every other Tiny Tonka I’ve seen) were/are in a slow state of “melting” off the tires! I don’t know much about plastics, but I have seen this sort of reaction between plastic and rubber toys previously.
Semi truck with removable crates. An interesting hauler made for the Japanese market also featured on tinytonkatoys.com. I haven’t seen too many others, though I understand there a some out there in other collections. Notice the single axle on the trailer; most of the U.S.-made trailers featured twin axles (auto transports/car carriers are a notable exception). The box shows a semi (also with one rear axle) that I haven’t seen elsewhere (the lowbow and fire truck appear similar or identical to the U.S.-made versions). This toy came by the way of a collector in France, oddly enough.
Semi and trailer. This truck has the same cab and lettering on the side of the trailer as the previous but the trailer is all pressed steel (in contrast with U.S.-made trailers that have a plastic base). These and the previous are the only ones I have seen with all-Japanese lettering on the cab and trailer. A shout-out to Doug who sent me pictures of this beauty.
Semi and trailer #2: Same pressed steel molds design for this one, but with the flag sticker and different color scheme. This cab also has the Tonka Japan sticker on the side. This one is pictured on the side of its box.
Car carrier. Doug sent me a great example of a boxed car carrier in September 2020. The cars are different from the simple US-made versions. In that the US versions don’t have a rear ramp that lowers (Tonka Rico / Mini Sanson made a version like this in Spain; see tinytonkatoys.com from an example in blue). This one is pictured on the side of its box.
Fuel tanker truck. More from Japan, this shows a tanker style used in other Tonka series, but one which I’ve never seen before in the Tiny Tonka size. It appears to have the same box as the semi truck with removable crates shown above. Very cool!