Sudoku is uncomplicated to learn, necessitates no deep mathematical calculations, and offers an unexpectedly wide range of logic situations. All that is essential to solve Sudoku is brains and concentration. Yet whenever Sudoku is mentioned, especially by first-time solvers, it is assumed that the puzzle originated from Japan because of the name. But is it really the truth? Now, you will find out.

Did the Japanese invent Sudoku?

Japan map with Sudoku Grid

The answer is NO. This game is actually believed to be based on an idea by a Swiss mathematician named Leonhard Euler in 1783. He had the idea of arranging numbers in such a way that any number or symbol would occur only once in each row or column. At the time it was also known as Latin Squares. This was then adapted by Howard Garns in 1979 into what is now known as Sudoku. Sudoku was introduced in Japan in 1984 by Maki Kaji, president of the Nikoli puzzle company, the company that first published Sudoku in Japan. (To learn more about the history of Sudoku, please see our article titled “A Snapshot History Of Sudoku Puzzles.”)

What is Sudoku called in Japan?

At first, the Sudoku puzzle was named by Nikoli company as “Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru” which means that the number is limited to only a single one (“dokushin” means “unmarried”). But they realized that this title was too long so they opted to abbreviate it to “Sudoku.” Here “SU” means number and “DOKU” means single and represented by these characters: 数独. They also call it “Nanpure,” which is short for Number Place.

Why is Sudoku popular in Japan?

Kota Moranishi Japanesse Sudoku Player

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If you’re an avid fan of Sudoku, you will know that some of the top players come from Japan, notably Kota Morinishi, who has won multiple individual World Sudoku Championships. This achievement alone speaks to how the Japanese take Sudoku seriously and, at the same time, how popular it is in their country. According to Nikoli company, Sudoku is the most popular logic puzzle in Japan with five publishers of monthly Sudoku magazines having a total circulation of around 660,000.

It was also believed that a retired Tokyo judge named Wayne Gould became instrumental in the popularization of Sudoku in Japan or even in other countries like the United Kingdom. He just found a Sudoku puzzle in a bookstore and became immediately obsessed with it. With that, he began creating his own puzzles and submitted varieties of them to prestigious newspapers with big readerships, such as The Times. He actually spent six years developing and creating a computer program that designs Sudoku puzzles of different difficulty levels which was later called Pappocom Sudoku. With this program he was able to stream countless random and unique Sudoku puzzles around the world.

Another reason why Sudoku is so popular in Japan is because Japanese people simply love puzzles. Many people in Japan love to do puzzles especially while riding on the train during their long commutes.

You can agree to me that the history of Sudoku is quite interesting and probably not at all what you expected. The roots of the game only stand to prove that the game has universal appeal, regardless of race, age, and nationality. While Leonhard Euler may never have intended it, his concept of Latin Squares is the very first origin of a game that has proven to be a worldwide phenomenon and become hugely popular in Japan.