The launch day is still up in the air, but Rakuten is hinting that it might happen as soon as this spring. They've been laying the groundwork for some time now, and they've even launched their own ebookstore. Raboo opened its doors in July 2011, and it currently supports the Japanese version of the Sony Reader Wifi as well as Panasonic's ereader, the UT-PB1.
Since launching the ebookstore, Rakuten has been meeting with publishers and is rumored to be having more success than Amazon (I don't see how they could be having less).
While we don't know the time frame for a launch, Rakuten did mention the price. They're planning to sell the Kobo Touch for round 10k yen ($130). That's half the Japanese retail for the Sony Reader Wifi and a third the price of the UT-PB1. I almost feel sorry for Sony; their ebookstore partner is going to undercut the hardware price and start a price war that Sony cannot win.
So now that we know that Japan is the next market for Kobo, what do you think is coming after that? I don't know, but let's have some fun speculating.
My guess is on China. Rakuten already has a presence there. They have a number of ongoing business partnerships with Baidu, the search engine giant. Rakuten could build on their name recognition and established contacts and launch an ebookstore in China with a minimum of effort.
But what's next after Japan, do you think?