Maki Kaji, who has been dubbed as the “Father of Sudoku,” has died at 69 years old. The Japanese man lost his life to duct bile cancer on Aug. 10. He spent his final moments at his home in Mitaka, located in the Tokyo metro area.

The announcement was made by Nikoli, the Japanese puzzle company that he helped to found.

“Maki Kaji, who spread the love of puzzles in the world as “Godfather of Sudoku,” passed away at 10:54 PM on August 10, 2021, at home in Tokyo. The cause of death was bile duct cancer. He was 69 years old.”

Nikoli will also hold a service to honor Kaji at a later time to be announced.

Kaji debuted the Nikoli magazine in 1980. He named the magazine after a racehorse that competed in the 2000 Guineas Stakes.

The game that is now called Sudoku has been around in different forms since the 1800s. An early, slightly different version first appeared in French newspapers in the late stages of the 19th century. The first iteration of Sudoku as it is seen today was published in a 1979 Dell Magazine issue under the title Number Place. The creator of this version is not known for sure but is speculated to be Howard Garns, an architect from Indiana who passed away in 1989.

Kaji first found the puzzle in a newspaper from the United States and eventually debuted Sudoku in his magazine. It first appeared as “Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru” which roughly translates to “the numerals must remain single” in English. This was later shortened to Sudoku. He went on to sell around 50,000 copies of the puzzle magazine quarterly.

As Sudoku rose to prominence, Kaji did not make much profit off of it as he did not copyright the puzzle. He eventually did copyright Sudoku, however, holding the copyright up until his death.

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