iPad 2 launches in Japan, many fans wait in line

Apple iPad 2After postponing its release for more than a month due to the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Apple finally released its iPad 2 in Japan today.

Long lines formed early Thursday morning outside the Apple store in the plush shopping district of Ginza, as well as at its branch in Shibuya. AFP news agency reported that many people waiting in line passed the time by playing on their first-generation iPad.

In unseasonably warm temperatures, staff from the Apple stores handed out bottled water and black parasols (with the Apple logo on, naturally) to those waiting patiently in line.

The iPad 2 is retailing for between 44,800 and 60,800 yen ($548-$743), depending on the model. The launch of the iPad 2 in Japan comes two days after Sony unveiled two new tablets, scheduled for release in the fall. No doubt executives at the Japanese company will have been looking on with a certain amount of envy at the lines forming outside the Apple stores in the country’s capital today.

Despite Apple’s online stores around the world showing wait times of up to two weeks for the iPad 2, the company will start selling it on Friday in Hong Kong, India, Israel, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Apple fans living in China will have to wait until May 6 before they can get their hands on the popular device.

The buoyant sales of the iPad 2 at Apple stores in Japan today came as government data out today showed that last month consumer spending dropped by the largest amount since records began in 1964, mainly as a result of the disasters that hit the country just over a month ago. The government will be hoping that some of the enthusiasm shown by shoppers today will filter down to other consumers in the country.