Maki Kaji, creator of Sudoku dies aged 69
It is with great sadness that we learn’t of the passing on of Maki Kaji, the creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku. He was 69 and suffered from bile duct cancer
Kaji was CEO at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July and died August 10 at his home in Mitaka, a Tokyo metro area city. In his lifetime, Kaji travelled to more than 30 countries bring joy to people through his puzzles. Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to his company. Kaji never trademarked Sudoku except within Japan.
“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.
Popularly known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” Kaji created the puzzle to be easy for children and others who didn’t want to crack their heads from too much thinking. The name “sudoku” is abbreviated from the Japanese suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru , which means "the numbers (or digits) must remain single" which basically explains how it is played. Sudoku is played by placing the numbers 1 through to 9 in rows, columns and blocks without repeating them.
Sudoku became a global hit in 2004 after a fan from New Zealand pitched it and got it published in the British newspaper The Times.
Kaji was born in the main northern island of Hokkaido and started Japan’s first puzzle magazine after dropping out of Keio University in Tokyo. He then founded Nikoli in 1983, and came up with Sudoku about the same time.
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.