Maki Kaji, Father of Puzzles, Dies at 69


Maki Kaji, Father of Puzzles, Dies at 69


Maki Kaji, the creator of Sudoku, a popular number puzzle, has died at home in Mitaka (Japan) on August 10. He was 69.

Nikoli, his company, where Mr. Kaji served as a chief executive officer until July, reported the death. It was caused by bile duct carcinoma.

Maki Kaji

Maki Kaji traveled to over 30 countries to spread his love of puzzles. According to Nikoli, a Tokyo-based company that makes Sudoku puzzles, over 200 million Sudoku champions have been in 100 countries.

Nikoli stated that Sudoku was not trademarked outside of Japan. This drove its popularity overseas.


Born on October 8, 1951, on the northern Japanese island Hokkaido, Mr. Kaji is now a citizen of Japan. After dropping out from Keio University, Tokyo, he started Japan’s first puzzle magazine. In 1983, he founded Nikoli and, around the same time, developed Sudoku.


Yoshinao, now Nikoli’s chief executive officer, stated that Maki Kaji was easy to get along with and had a “unique, playful approach to life.”

After publishing the number puzzle in Nikoli’s 1980s magazine, Maki Kaji gave it its name.The game, which involves placing the numbers 1 through 9 in each row and column of a 9-by-9 grid, has been popularized worldwide.


Tournaments are held all over the globe, and millions of people play the same game every day.Nikoli posted a statement on Monday stating that Kaji died in Tokyo of bile duct cancer. Kaji was born in Sapporo, a northern Japanese city, in 1951.


The game was popular in Japan, but it only became a worldwide phenomenon after The Times of London published a puzzle.


Maki Kaji didn’t trademark the game and did not profit financially from its enormous success. He said that the joy of solving the puzzle and seeing others enjoy the game was more important to him than any financial reward.


Maki Kaji told BBC 2007 that he gets really excited when he sees a new puzzle idea with many potentials.


It makes me really happy. It’s like discovering treasure.”

In a speech from 2008, he stated that “it was a very intriguing puzzle, fun to solve.”

Kaji was on Suuji Wa Dokushin Ni Kagiru. This means “Numbers should only be one.”

“But Number Place was not the right name for me. I wanted to make a Japanese name.



He was forced by his colleagues to find a catchier name while rushing to attend a horse race. Sudoku came up “in about 25 seconds”.

After dropping out from Keio University, Nikoli was founded. It published its first issue in August 1980. It is not clear where Sudoku originated. According to the New York Times, some credit Euler, a Swiss mathematician of the 18th Century, as the creator. Others claim it was brought to the Arab world via India in the 8th or 9th Century.


In the late 19th Century, French newspapers published several early versions of this game, including one called “le carte magique Diabolique,” or evil magic square. This version was published by the La France newspaper in July 1895.


Howard Garns, a US architect, is often credited with creating the modern version. He made it in the 1970s under the name Number Place. Kaji first spotted this game in 1984.

Maki Kaji , also known as the “Godfather” of Sudoku, created the puzzle easy for children. He took the Japanese characters for “number and single” from Japanese characters and named “number and single.”


Sudoku was not a worldwide hit until 2004 when a New Zealand fan pitched it to the Times and got it published. Japan discovered its own puzzle two years later as a “gyakuyunyu,” or “reimport,” in 2004.

Nikoli has supplied original puzzles for more than 100 media companies .Mainichi, a Japanese newspaper, credited Mr. Kaji with starting puzzle sections in bookstores and introducing “Sudoku” into the Oxford English Dictionary.


His survivors are his wife Naomi and his two daughters.


Sudoku was initially called “Suji wa Dokushin ni Kagiru” which translates into “Numbers must be single, a bachelor.” Sudoku is now available in digital formats to keep up with modern times.

Yoshinao, the successor to Kaji as Nikoli’s chief executive officer, stated that his former boss was easy-going and had a “unique, playful approach towards life.”

Hapuku stated that “our mission is to pursue Maki’s vision and potentials” about the Japanese news outlet’s founder of puzzle sections in bookstores. He also introduced the word “Sudoku” into the Oxford English Dictionary.