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Friday, April 29, 2011, 12:15 am PT (03:15 am ET)

Apple's iPad 2 launch in Asia draws long lines

The rollout of Apple's iPad 2 in Asia drew thousands of interested customers looking to be among the first to officially purchase the touchscreen tablet in their countries.

After having missed last month's international launch because of a devastating natural disaster, Japan on Thursday became the first Asian country to begin selling the iPad 2. According to The Wall Street Journal, the line for the iPad 2 at Apple's flagship Ginza retail store in Tokyo stretched for three blocks.

The first customer in line had waited since 8 p.m. on Wednesday, braving a night of heavy rain. Though Thursday's crowds were tamer than last year's "frenzy" for the original iPad, a "respectable-sized crowd" gathered for the launch.

The iPad 2 in Japan starts at 44,800 yen, (roughly $549 dollars), a price similar to that of the first-generation iPad when it went on sale last year.

At one store in Hong Kong, over 400 customers endured the rain on Friday to purchase the iPad 2. "A long queue snaked around the Apple shop in a major downtown shopping centre with several groups of shoppers loading as many as a dozen iPads onto trolleys," the Associated Foreign Press reported.

The device was out of stock in Hong Kong by midday, the report noted. At an Apple authorized shop in Singapore, only 100 devices were available for sale, while 100 invited customers lined up at midnight at a KT store in Seoul, South Korea.

Hong Kong has seen its share of excitement this week, as the white iPhone 4 launched there on Thursday and reportedly sold out within one hour.

Apple announced on Wednesday that the iPad 2 would debut in Japan, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Korean Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates this week. The iPad 2 will go on sale in China on May 6.

The first international launch of the iPad 2 on March 25 also drew lines. Some analysts had suggested that the international launch would be delayed because of continued stock outs of the iPad 2 in the U.S., but Apple went ahead with the launch as planned in spite of constrained inventory

During a quarterly earnings call last week, Apple said that it's selling every iPad 2 it can make, but faces "the mother of all backlogs."

According to one well-connected analyst, Apple is set to ramp up iPad 2 production to grow shipments by more than 100 percent sequentially. Apple is expected to ship roughly 40 million iPads this year.