Man becomes Internet-famous for unusual name

By Ngoc Ngan   November 19, 2023 | 08:49 pm PT
While cleaning his house, To Yo Ta (To), 33, found his employee card from when he worked for the Japanese car company Toyota.

After posting a picture of it on social media, his post gained nearly 30,000 likes and thousands of shares. Everyone was surprised and delighted to see a Vietnamese person have the same name as the company he worked for. To Yo Ta’s inbox quickly filled with questions about his name.

To Yo Ta in HCMC, September. 2023. Photo courtesy of To Yo Ta

To Yo Ta in HCMC, September. 2023. Photo courtesy of To Yo Ta

The man from Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands said that his name was given to him by his father To Van Ke, a car mechanic.

Even before starting a family, Ke had told his relatives that he wanted to name his child To Yo Ta, similar to the car company’s engineer and founder Toyoda Kiichiro, so that his child would have a better life and brighter future than him. He got his wish when his first son was born in 1990.

To Yo Ta has three sisters. One of his sisters is named To Co Ro Na (after Toyota’s Corona car line). His second sister was given the more normal name of To Kieu My because their father was sick when she was born, so their mother was the one to name her. His third sister was once again named by their father as To So Ny, after the Japanese electronics company Sony.

When he was in school, To was teased by his classmates for his unusual name. He said that during a closing ceremony in middle school, he was on the list of honor students slated to receive an award. When his name was called onstage, everyone laughed at him, causing his face to flush with embarrassment.

Though his father never influenced his decision, To was interested in physics and cars since he was a child. He graduated from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry with a degree in automotive engineering and began working for a manufacturing company, before transferring to a business in the automotive industry.

To Yo Ta’s name card when he worked for Toyota in HCMC’s District 7. Photo courtesy of To Yo Ta

To Yo Ta’s name card when he worked for Toyota in HCMC’s District 7. Photo courtesy of To Yo Ta

In 2014, he went to work for Toyota and stayed at the company for eight years.

"Everything was a coincidence," he said.

For his work, he regularly attended conferences at which would give clients his business card. To said that whenever he did so, there would generally be one of two reactions. One was that the client thought it was an alias he came up with to leave an impression, and two was that the client did not notice it at first because it was similar to the car brand.

Only when they contacted him later were they shocked that it was actually his real name.

Afterward, to avoid causing a hassle for his clients, he began introducing himself as To, a habit he kept even when he met his future. After months of texting, he revealed his real name, but she only believed him when he showed her his identity card.

When they married in 2015, To debated naming his son To Shi Ba (after the Japanese electronics brand Toshiba) or To San Yo (the air-conditioner brand), or Hi Ta Chi (the refrigerator brand) if it was a girl.

However, he changed his mind, and his two daughters were given normal names. At the beginning of 2023, he resigned from Toyota to start his own business training personnel in the automotive industry.

He said that the name To Yo Ta had gotten him into many hilarious situations, but he did not regard it as a hassle. Because of this name, he was determined to succeed when he was in school because in his mind, it would be embarrassing to have bad grades while also having a strange name.

More importantly, this name was filled with the hopes and dreams of his father.

"Determination will decide a person’s fate, not their name," To Yo Ta said.

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