TOKYO: Maki Kaji (69) the creator of the popular numerical brain teasers-Sudoku whose life's work was spreading the joy of puzzles, died due to bile duct cancer. He passed away at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area.
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.
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 chief executive at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July.
Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to Tokyo-based Nikoli. 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.” The world's most popular pencil puzzle, also came 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. Kaji is survived by his wife Naomi and two daughters.