Apple has confirmed it will open an iTunes Music Store in Japan within the next year.

Apple vice president Yoshiaki Sakito, a former Sony employee, told Associated Press that prices would be comparable to those in the US where tracks cost 99 cents.

The AP report notes that iTunes is likely to change the Japanese music download industry: commercial downloads currently cost about $2.30 in Japan.

Despite the high price, music downloads are rapidly on the rise in Japan. The Recording Industry Association of Japan estimates 2.4 million Japanese are downloading music – most of them illegally.

The iPod is a huge hit in Japan. Market research company Gfk Japan says six of the top eight selling music players in Japan are iPods.