Where Was Sudoku Invented? It’s Not Where You think!

Sudoku is a number placement puzzle that has become exceptionally popular worldwide. Most of us know what a sudoku looks like but perhaps not how it all began.

You might guess that this puzzle has a long history but it might surprise you to know that it actually originated in Europe. Number puzzles began to appear in French newspapers as early as the second part of the nineteenth century. They were, unlike our modern versions, not based on logic but on calculations. The first number puzzle, similar to our current version of sudoku, was one created in 1886. In 1895 French newspaper La France published a puzzle that was almost exactly the same as the Sudoku we know today. Just like a modern Sudoku, it only contained the numbers 1-9, as opposed to the earlier versions. 

However, it would take until the end of the 1970’s before the modern version of the Sudoku was created. That happened in the USA, and was probably created by the anonymous puzzle constructor Howard Garns. But this puzzle failed to succeed. It was introduced in Japan during the 80’s where it also got its name. The original name was suuji wa dokushin ni kaguru (a number that must remain without a pair), and was later shortened to su doku, which means stand-alone number. 

The break-through

It wasn’t until 2005 that sudoku became popular to the wider public. It started in Great Britain, mostly thanks to Hong Kong based judge Wayne Gould, who invented a machine that generated sudoku puzzles at a rapid rate. Gould is said to have come up with the idea when he saw a half finished sudoku in a Japanese book shop in 1997. He kept working on his invention for six years before finalising the sudoku machine. He sold his sudoku to The Times under the name su doku. The first reader’s letter sent to The Times relating to this new puzzle was from a man called Ian Payn, who had missed his bus stop because of the sudoku he was trying to solve. 

Sudoku first became popular in Japan and Great Britain. Perhaps this might be explained by these two countries’ long tradition of logic games. But why it has become such a success in Scandinavia and other countries throughout the world is more difficult to say. Except of course that it’s so much fun and very addictive.


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