Sudoku maker Maki Uji dies after seeing the joy of life in a puzzle


Tokyo — Maki Uji, the creator of the popular number puzzle Sudoku, who worked in life to spread the fun of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company said on Tuesday. He had bile duct cancer at the age of 69.

Known as the “Sudoku Godfather,” Kaji created a simple puzzle for kids and those who don’t want to think too much. Its name consists of “numbers” and “single” Japanese letters, and the player places numbers from 1 to 9 in rows, columns, and blocks without repeating.

Ironically, it was in 2004 that Sudoku became a global hit after New Zealand fans pitched Sudoku and published it in the British newspaper The Times. Two years later, Japan rediscovered its own puzzle as “reimport” or “reimport”.

Kaji was the CEO of the puzzle company Nikoli until July, and died on August 10 at his home in Mitaka City, Tokyo.

Maki has traveled to more than 30 countries to spread the fun of puzzles. According to Tokyo-based Nikoli, the Sudoku Championship is attended by about 200 million people in 100 countries.

Maki Uji
Tournament officials’ white hats are watching participants complete the puzzle during the Sudoku tournament held in Philadelphia on October 20, 2007. (Joseph Kaczmarek / AP Photo)

Sudoku is not registered as a trademark except in Japan, and is supporting the fashion overseas, Nikoli said.

“Mr. Kaji came up with the name Sudoku and was loved by puzzle fans all over the world. Thank you for your continued patronage.”

Originally, Sudoku was called “Sudoku becomes single,” which means “Sudoku must be single.” In recent years, Sudoku, considered to be the most popular pencil puzzle in the world, has appeared in digital version.

Born on the northern main island of Hokkaido, Maki launched Japan’s first puzzle magazine after dropping out of Keio University in Tokyo. He founded Nikoli in 1983 and came up with Sudoku at about the same time.

Yoshinao Anpuku, CEO of Nikoli, who succeeded Kaji, said Kaji could easily become friends and have a “unique and playful approach to life.”

“Our mission is to pursue Maki’s vision and potential,” said Ampuk.

Nikoli provides original puzzles to more than 100 media companies, 10 of which are foreign companies.

The Mainichi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, acknowledged Kaji’s achievements by starting a puzzle section at a bookstore and introducing the word “Sudoku” to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Kaji survived by his wife Naomi and her two daughters. Funerals have been held among close family members. Nikoli is arranging another memorial service, but details are undecided.

Yuri Kageyama

Associated Press