Written by Ananya Chakraborti , a grade 9 student.
The death of Maki Kaji in August 2021 has left Sudoku fans all over the world deeply saddened. What is the connection of this puzzle enthusiast to Sudoku? Read on…
Who was Maki Kaji ?
Maki Kaji was the president of Nikoli Co. Ltd. which is a Japanese puzzle company. He is widely known as the “Godfather of Sudoku”. Mr. Kaji died at Mitaka, Japan on the 10th of August, 2021. He was 69 years old.
What is Sudoku?
Sudoku is a fun logic, number placement-based puzzle game.
How is it played?
Every Sudoku puzzle has a 9×9 grid of squares subdivided into 3×3 boxes.
- Every square needs to contain a single number.
- Only the numbers from 1 to 9 can be used.
- Each 3×3 box can only contain each number from 1 to 9 once.
- Each vertical column can contain at least one number from 1 to 9.
- All horizontal rows can contain at least one number from 1 to 9.
Some form of numbers puzzle has been around for a long time. It is believed that the first modern numbers puzzle was created by Leonard Euler, an 18th-century Swiss mathematician. In the late 19th century, the French published numbers puzzles too. The present version was created in the US in 1979 by Howard Garns, a freelance puzzle inventor. Known as Number Place, it was published in the Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games Magazine.
Maki Kaji and Sudoku
Maki Kaji was the co-founder of Nikoli, one of the world’s biggest publishers of puzzle magazines and books. It was with Sudoku that Maki Kaji and Nikoli became really famous. The “Godfather of Sudoku” was born in 1951 in Sapporo, Japan. Mr. Kaji dropped out of university to start his puzzle company with two of his childhood friends. When he first came across a Number Place puzzle in 1983, he decided to launch a numbers puzzle through his company. He named it SUDOKU, short for Suji-wa-Dokushin-ni-Kigaru. The name comes from Japanese characters of “numbers” and “single”. The first Sudoku puzzle was published in Nikoli magazine in April 1984.
Japan falls in love with Sudoku
The Japanese got hooked on Sudoku in no time.
The reasons for this were:
- Japanese language and script are not suitable for crossword puzzles
- Numbers 1 to 9 used in Sudoku are easy to understand by everyone
- The Japanese spend a lot of time commuting and Sudoku was a nice pastime for a train or a bus ride.
It was not long before Sudoku was published in newspapers and found at bookstores across Japan.
Sudoku goes global
While Sudoku became all the rage in Japan in the ‘90s, it was in 2004, that it spread to other countries when The Times published its first Sudoku puzzle.
Mr. Kaji travelled to more than 30 countries and spread the joys of puzzles. Sudoku championships are also held annually which have attracted about 200 million people in various countries over the years.
Maki Kaji’s legacy
Sudoku is believed to be the most popular pencil puzzle in the world. The reason for Sudoku’s popularity is that the rules are simple and easy to understand. But, in 2017, Mr. Kaji received a letter from an elderly man who complained that Sudoku was difficult for him. That motivated Mr. Kaji to create simpler Sudoku puzzles for children and the elderly. Sudoku is now also available in a digital version. Maki Kaji loved puzzles and believed that for him, puzzles were not about making money but the excitement of solving them.
Headline image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maki_Kaji_(5607045477).jpg