Author interviews Vol.11 Hone Rokuo

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to Hone Rokuo

Hone Rokuo is 27 years old, a bachelor. Height 183cm, body fat 4.7%. He is handsome, tall, and slim. His occupation is what he calls a free human being.

NobWhat is that: free human being?

Hone RokuoThat is to be able to do just like one wishes (laughs). But, I am earning my keep properly. Not as a professional puzzle author though.

NobYou are a man of puzzles (laughs). Did you like puzzles since you were little?

Hone RokuoYes. In kindergarten, I often had my parents take me to the library, and I always borrowed books with mazes or riddles. A notebook I have from first grade of elementary school has mazes that I created. It has one that fills a closely packed page. It is a meticulously, very detailed maze. In elementary school I liked board games, I played that a lot. I remember playing at school with a sugoroku (a kind of snakes and ladders) I had made myself.

NobSo you had been creating things from the start. Were you doing pencil puzzles too?

Hone RokuoI was solving the crossword puzzles I found in newspapers and magazines. I liked books that called for mental gymnastics. I had not bought any puzzle magazine before I encountered Nikoli.

NobWhen did you encounter Nikoli?

Hone RokuoThat was in the second grade of junior high school. I was in a bookstore, thought it looked interesting, and bought Nikoli. The magazine was expensive for me, a junior high school student. But I thought I'd enjoy it because it contained a variety of puzzles, I used my own spending money. It was Puzzle Communication Nikoli Vol.42, published April 1993. It proved to be such fun to me, because Nikoli had lots of kinds of puzzles that I had never seen before, maybe there were over 30 kinds. I thought that it was marvellous just to understand the puzzles one by one.

NobSecond year of junior high school, and you were able to solve them?

Hone RokuoYes, sure. Perhaps, I solved ten kinds of puzzles that first time. The puzzles I had liked from the start were the ones where the rules were easy to understand, for example block puzzles, sudoku and shikaku. I liked Nikoli because there were not just puzzles but the reading part was also interesting. I felt at home with Nikoli, it was pleasant and enjoyable. I did not feel any boundaries between what was inside and outside for the company. I liked the carefree atmosphere.

NobDid you then buy it from the next issue?

Hone RokuoNo, I didn’t buy Vol.43. I hadn’t finished Vol.42. I enjoyed myself with Vol.42 for four months. In junior high school my life centered around doing club activities and playing with friends, so I was not that absorbed in Nikoli. Nikoli was just one of my favorites. But after that, from Vol.44 I kept buying it for a long time.

NobWhat made you start making puzzles?

Hone RokuoThere is a “How To” section about contributions and when I was reading Nikoli I saw that readers were welcome to make puzzles. I immediately tried to make goishihiroi (an old Japanese puzzle, pronounced go-i-shi-hiroi), numberlink, and shikaku. That was in the first year of high school. I sent them in, and two goishihiroi and one numberlink were published. It was in Vol.50 published December 1995. I was of course excited that they were published, and I was delighted to get the magazine sent for free. I didn’t make the puzzles to get them published, I played around and when they were there, I sent them off without thinking deeply about what would happen next. I thought there would be no way to get in without taking it more seriously. But from then on I kept making puzzles, when preparing for the examination to get into university, even when I was busy working after I found employment.

NobDid you change how you made your puzzles when you were in university?

Hone RokuoAfter I entered university I got to meet other authors. Talking to them there were so many things that I learned to pay attention to. My ideas slowly developed, they have become clearer since that time, and I have learned what I can accomplish. The most important thing for me is to make the board look attractive, beautiful even. In university I had plenty of time to make puzzles. I was keeping my usual pace, and in the extra time I worked to introduce my new ideas in the puzzles. Still, I was not able to get it like I wanted to, and I would still say that is the case, not fully mature yet (laughs).

NobHas your style been influenced by other authors?

Hone RokuoNo such thing. I have plowed my own furrow all this long time (laughs). But no, more precisely, I have listened to much, but when I am making my puzzles I forget all that (laughs). It may be that I am unable to reflect the ideas of others. I get a feel for new ways, ideas, or methods to develop by solving the puzzles of others, I am unhappy to discover new things as an author but still glad to see it as a solver of puzzles. But it never gets reflected in the puzzles that I make. It gets me going and it inspires me and then I occasionally hit on a new possibility, but really it has to be other writers who put it on paper. I'm too lazy for that.

NobWhen you make a puzzle, what are you thinking about?

Hone RokuoWhen I want to get something into a puzzle, I think about how to put it or to fit it in seamlessly. But most of the time I don’t really think anything (laughs). It is just the feeling, no deep thoughts go into it. I let it flow without bothering my head.

NobCan you make the puzzles without thinking about anything?

Hone RokuoHmm, I may be thinking a little bit. When I get the feeling that something could be interesting, I come up with some way to include that and to show it in the board, that sort of thing may be what I think about (laughs). I don’t think of the solver, if I feel that I am interested I go for it.

NobWhat do you pay attention to when you create your puzzles?

Hone RokuoJust taking care it is not too difficult.

NobWhat is it that makes you create your puzzles?

Hone RokuoPublication, if it gets accepted and printed. For me, an ordinary problem accepted for publication is more excellent than a novel one that does not get published. A puzzle comes alive only when it is solved by a lot of people, that’s how I think.

NobAnd the ideal puzzle, what is it for you?

Hone RokuoFor a puzzle that gets accepted for publication, here the idea of the author should shine through. I think a puzzle should be well designed and leave an impression with the solver. Just mouthing off maybe, I really don’t aim for that sort of thing, I am happy to let other authors do that.

NobAre you going to keep creating puzzles?

Hone RokuoNo doubt about that. It is important that my puzzles are published. For my work to get out there, that has sort of become a sign that I am alive and well. But there are so many things I want to do, and the priority I give to puzzles is not that high. So I want to be as efficient as possible in my puzzle creation.

NobWell, I think I see what you say, and what about your future?

Hone RokuoI’ll be busy in ten years. I will become famous in 20, in my particular field. Then in 40 years time I want to get so I am able to tell about my experiences and what I did to the generations following me. Like, one of my dreams is to found a school, as a way to achieve the goals I have set for myself.

Interviewed Feb 2008 Published on Dec 10, 2009