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PUZZLEMAKERíS PASSING. In this October 20, 2007 file photo, Ronald Osher of Stamford, Connecticut works on his puzzle during the final round of the Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship in Philadelphia. Maki Kaji, known as the "Godfather of Sudoku," the numbers puzzle he created thatís drawn fans around the world, has died. Kaji was 69 years old. (AP Photo/Joseph Kaczmarek, File)

From The Asian Reporter, V31, #9 (September 6, 2021), page 3.

Sudoku maker Maki Kaji, who saw lifeís joy in puzzles, dies

By Yuri Kageyama

AP Business Writer

TOKYO ó Maki Kaji, the creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku, whose lifeís work was spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company announced. He was 69 years old and had bile duct cancer.

Known as the "Godfather of Sudoku," Kaji created the puzzle to be easy for children and others who didnít 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 wasnít 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 August 10 at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area.

Maki travelled 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 worldís most popular pencil puzzle, has come out in digital versions.

Born in the main northern island of Hokkaido, Maki started Japanís 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 Nikoliís chief executive, said Kaji made friends easily and had a "unique and playful approach toward life."

"Our mission is to pursue Makiís 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.

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