Maki Kaji

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Maki Kaji
Maki Kaji (5607045477) (cropped).jpg
Kaji in 2011
Born8 October 1951
Sapporo, Japan
Died10 August 2021(2021-08-10) (aged 69)
Tokyo, Japan

Maki Kaji (鍜治 真起, Kaji Maki, 8 October 1951 – 10 August 2021[1]) was a Japanese businessman who was the president of Nikoli, a puzzle manufacturer. He is widely known as "the father of Sudoku" for his role in popularizing the number game.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Kaji was born in Sapporo on 8 October 1951.[4][5] His father worked as an engineer at a telecom company; his mother was employed by a kimono shop. Kaji attended Shakujii High School in his hometown. He later studied literature at Keio University, but dropped out during his first year.[4][6] After a succession of jobs including being a roadie, a waiter and a construction worker, he started a publishing business.[6]


Kaji launched a quarterly puzzle magazine in 1980 called Nikoli,[7] together with two friends from his childhood.[4] They named the magazine after a race horse that had won the 1980 2000 Guineas Stakes race in Ireland.[6][8] Three years later, he founded a company under the same name.[5] The magazine, the company's main product, grew to have 50,000 quarterly readers.[9]

The number game Sudoku appeared in early issues of Nikoli.[7] His interest in the puzzle piqued after encountering it in 1984 under the title "Number Place". He formulated the name "Sudoku" while he was scrambling to get to a horse race.[4][10] He shortened it from Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru ("numbers should be single") at the urging of his fellow workers.[10] After the game spread to Britain[11][12] and the United States,[8] it became wildly popular.[7]

Kaji also invented or introduced various other puzzle games, such as Masyu.[9] He resigned as head of Nikoli on 31 July 2021,[13] ten days before his death.[4][14] He was succeeded as president by Nikoli's editor in chief, Yoshinao Anpuku.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Kaji was married to Naomi until his death. Together, they had two children.[4]

Kaji died on 10 August 2021 at his home in Tokyo at age 69, from bile duct cancer.[4][15] Nikoli's staff held a memorial gathering for him on 2 November in Tokyo.[16]


  1. ^ 数独、名付け親の鍜治真起氏死去数字を埋めるパズルゲーム (in Japanese)
  2. ^ "'Father of Sudoku' puzzles next move". 13 June 2007.
  3. ^ "Japan's 'father of Sudoku' Maki Kaji dead at 69". 17 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Albeck-Ripka, Livia; Ueno, Hisako (17 August 2021). "Maki Kaji, 'Godfather of Sudoku,' Dies at 69". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Sudoku maker Maki Kaji, who saw life's joy in puzzles, dies". AP NEWS. 17 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b c McNeill, David. "Kaji Maki: First he gave us sudoku".
  7. ^ a b c Bellos, Alex (2010). Here's Looking at Euclid: A Surprising Excursion Through the Astonishing World of Math. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-9634-9.
  8. ^ a b "Correction attached to "Inside Japan's Puzzle Palace"". The New York Times. 21 March 2007.
  9. ^ a b Times, Martin Fackler the New York. "Sudoku's successors?".
  10. ^ a b "Sudoku: Maki Kaji, puzzle enthusiast, dies aged 69". BBC News. 17 August 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  11. ^ Smith, David (15 May 2005). "So you thought Sudoku came from the Land of the Rising Sun ..." The Observer. Retrieved 13 June 2008. The puzzle gripping the nation actually began at a small New York magazine
  12. ^ Devlin, Keith (29 January 2012). "The Numbers Game (book review of Taking Sudoku Seriously by Jason Rosenhouse et al.)". The Wall Street Journal. Weekend Edition. p. C5.
  13. ^ a b "Nikoli".
  14. ^ Kelly, Tim; Lies, Elaine (16 August 2021). "Japan's Kaji, the "godfather of Sudoku," dies at 69". Reuters. Retrieved 16 August 2021.
  15. ^ Scottie Andrew. "Maki Kaji, the 'godfather of Sudoku,' dies at 69". CNN. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Remember meeting of Maki Kaji | nikoli".

External links[edit]