Apple has moved to lead Japan's digital music market, the company announced last night.

iPod market share there is now at "almost 60 per cent", Apple claimed, citing Business Computer News (BCN).

"Since the launch of the iTunes Music Store this summer and introduction of the iPod nano and fifth generation iPod, market share in Japan has grown rapidly, solidifying iPod's position as the number one digital music player in Japan by a wide margin", the company explained.

"Consistently maintaining a market share surpassing 50 per cent since September, Apple has grown to be the only winner in the portable audio market in Japan," said Ichiro Michikoshi, editor-in-chief of WebBCN Ranking.

iTunes has also become the leading online music service in the region, with a growing catalogue now at one million songs.

"It has been a tremendous year for Apple and music in Japan with the opening of the iTunes Music Store and the introduction of the impossibly small iPod nano and fifth generation iPod," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing. "We're delighted", he added.

Michikoshi observed the prize: "All eyes are on Apple to see how far it will grow its numbers in the holiday season."