x

Culture

Sudoku Maker Maki Kaji, Who Saw Life’s Joy in Puzzles, Dies

TOKYO — Maki Kaji, the creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life's work was spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company said Tuesday. He was 69 and had bile duct cancer.

Known as the "Godfather of Sudoku," Kaji created the puzzle to be easy for children and others who didn't want to think too hard. Its name is made up of the Japanese characters for "number" and "single," and players place the numbers 1 through 9 in rows, columns and blocks without repeating them.

Ironically, it wasn't until 2004 when Sudoku became a global hit, after a fan from New Zealand pitched it and got it published in the British newspaper The Times. Two years later, Japan rediscovered its own puzzle as a "gyakuyunyu," or "reimport." 

Kaji was chief executive at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July and died Aug. 10 at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area. 

Maki traveled to more than 30 countries spreading his enjoyment of puzzles. Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to Tokyo-based Nikoli. 

Sudoku was also never trademarked except within Japan, driving its overseas craze, Nikoli said. 

"Kaji-san came up with the name Sudoku and was loved by puzzle fans from all over the world. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts for the patronage you have shown throughout his life," the company said in a statement. 

Originally, Sudoku was called "Suji-wa-Dokushin-ni-Kagiru," which translates to, "Numbers should be single, a bachelor." In recent years, Sudoku, believed to be the world's most popular pencil puzzle, has come out in digital versions. 

Born in the main northern island of Hokkaido, Maki started Japan's first puzzle magazine after dropping out of Keio University in Tokyo. He founded Nikoli in 1983, and came up with Sudoku about the same time. 

Yoshinao Anpuku, who succeeded Kaji as Nikoli's chief executive, said Kaji made friends easily and had a "unique and playful approach toward life."

"Our mission is to pursue Maki's vision and possibilities," Anpuku said. 

Nikoli has provided original puzzles to more than 100 media companies, 10 of them foreign ones.

Major Japanese newspaper Mainichi in its obituary credited Kaji for starting the puzzle sections at bookstores, as well as introducing the word "Sudoku" into the Oxford English dictionary. 

Kaji is survived by his wife Naomi and two daughters. Funeral services have been held among close family. A separate memorial service is being arranged by Nikoli, but details were still undecided. 

RELATED

ATHENS - Several internationally known musicians and producers including Alice Cooper were given a tour of the Acropolis Museum by its director Nikos Stambolidis on Sunday, according to information and photos released by the museum on Monday.

Top Stories

General News

FALMOUTH, MA – The police in Falmouth have identified the victim in an accident involving a car plunging into the ocean on February 20, NBC10 Boston reported.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.

General News

PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.

Video

Mission…to Alonnisos, a TNH Documentary

O oceanic you sing and sail White on your body and yellow on your chimeneas For you're tired of the filthy waters of the harbors You who loved the distant Sporades You who lifted the tallest flags You who sail clear through the most dangerous caves Hail to you who let yourself be charmed by the sirens Hail to you for never having been afraid of the Symplegades (Andreas Empeirikos)   What traveler has not been fascinated by the Greek islands, drawn by the Sirens’ song of a traveler’s dreams? TNH and our video show ‘Mission’ marked the change of the season by transporting viewers into the heart of summer.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.