Japan's largest mobile phone network, NTT DoCoMo, is in talks with Apple about securing a contract to launch the iPhone in Japan, a report says.
Apple has sold about 1.4 million iPhones since its launch.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said that Apple boss Steve Jobs had been in talks with the head of NTT DoCoMo.
The iPhone would be a coup for NTT DoCoMo which has struggled to attract new customers, analysts say.
Phone networks in the US, the UK, France and Germany are among those already with exclusive Apple deals.
However, the WSJ said that talks had hit a sticking point over what share of customer revenue Apple would receive under the Japan deal, with the California-based firm wanting the same percentage of income as it gets in deals elsewhere.
The paper said that Apple was also talking with rival network Softbank as a back-up should a deal fail.
NTT DoCoMo has about 53 million subscribers - commanding about half of the Japanese market - but Softbank and KDDI have prompted fierce competition by cutting rates.
Apple has sold more than 1.4 million iPhones since the device went on sale in the US.
Its launch in Germany prompted a legal battle, but Vodafone failed to break up a deal giving rival network T-Mobile the exclusive rights to distribute the phone.