Maki Kaji, known as the ‘Godfather of Sudoku’, passed away on 10 August 2021 due to bile duct cancer.
He founded the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli Co. in 1983, and served as chief executive until July 2021.
While Kaji didn’t invent Sudoku, he introduced it to Japan in 1984 and gave the puzzle its now distinct name. He created the puzzle to be enjoyed by children and others who simply want a more meditative puzzle-solving experience.
The name Sudoku means “number single”, and the puzzle involves the players fitting in all the digits from 1 to 9 in every row, column, and block without any of the digits repeating.
Sudoku was never trademarked in any country except within Japan, which, according to Nikoli Co., played a part in driving its popularity. The puzzle is believed to be the most popular pencil puzzle at the time of this writing.
Kaji also invented and popularised other types of puzzles such as Masyu, and popularising Sudoku remains one of his most significant achievements. He had spread the love and joy of puzzle-solving to countless people around the world, and the impact of his work can still be felt today.