After winning a label-sponsored talent contest, they were signed to Germany's Ariola-Hansa Records in 1977 and debuted a year later with a pair of LPs, Adolescent Sex and Obscure Alternatives, which received little notice at home or in the U.S. but did find favor among Japanese audiences. With 1979's Quiet Life, Japan made a tremendous leap into more sophisticated stylistic and subtle territory; a subsequent hit single covering Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion" further underscored the newfound soulfulness of their music.
1980s Gentlemen Take Polaroids continued to broaden Japan's scope, incorporating a variety of exotic influences into their increasingly atmospheric sound. With 1981's Tin Drum (recorded minus Dean), the band peaked: tapping sources as diverse as funk and Middle Eastern rhythms, the album moved beyond pop confines into experimental tones and textures, and scored a U.K. smash with the single "Ghosts."
In 1987, Karn released Dreams of Reason Produce Monsters, a solo LP which featured contributions from Sylvian and Jansen, spurring rumors of a reunion which came to fruition in 1989 when the four principal members re-teamed under the name Rain Tree Crow. By the time an eponymously-titled album appeared in 1991, however, relations had again dissolved in acrimony, and the musicians went their separate ways; while Sylvian continued working independently, as the decade wore on Karn, Jansen and Barbieri occasionally reunited in various projects while also maintaining solo careers. ~ Jason Ankeny