As smartphone usage continues to grow in Japan, more Japanese developers are tinkering with the devices to make apps of their own. And since developer tools and information are made available for free online, just about anyone can break into app development so long as they have an idea and the willingness to learn.

In fact, making a smartphone app is so easy, even a grade-schooler could do it— just look at 12-year-old Gaiya Ohara, Japan’s youngest smartphone developer and sole creator of the award-winning iOS app, Math RPG.

Gaiya loves playing video games and picked up programming when he was in the 5th grade with the hopes of one day making a game of his own.

Earlier this spring, Gaiya enrolled in a beginner’s iPhone app programming course at Life is Tech!, a 3-5 day IT camp for junior high and high school students held several times throughout the year at universities across Japan.

After the course, Gaiya began work on his first app, Keisan RPG (“Math RPG”), as an entry for the 2012 Teen’s Apps Award, a smartphone app development contest for Japanese students aged 12 to 18.

The app is a simple game where the player must defeat monsters by solving math problems. Defeating monsters yields items that can be used in battle and gold for buying new weapons. The difficulty ramps up the further you progress, moving from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.

Gaiya admits that art isn’t one of his strong subjects and that he had trouble with monster illustrations and other visual aspects of the game. Nevertheless, Gaiya managed to place third in the competition and walked home with a brand new iPad, as well as an offer from Life is Tech! organizer, Pieceture Inc., to release his app on iTunes.

The app currently enjoys 4.5/5 stars out of 24 reviews on the Japanese App Store, with users praising it as a fun way to exercise the mind.

Math RPG can be downloaded for free on iTunes. The simple visual layout and use of basic English terms should make it easy enough to navigate even if you don’t understand Japanese. Be sure to give it a try and send Gaiya your support from overseas— he could grow up to make your next favorite game!

Source: ITMedia, iTunes

■ Don’t worry Gaiya, even many of the most skilled  programmers don’t make it past stick figures