For both its creators and consumers, music has always served as an escape, a place of solace, and most especially, an outlet for our deepest emotions. In times when we can’t open up our hearts nor fully express how we feel out of fear of a judgmental world, music can sometimes be the only way to do so. 

Over the course of their evolving 13-year long career, this is something that Hitsujibungaku — composed of vocalist and guitarist Moeka Shiotsuka, bassist Yurika Kasai, and drummer Hiroa Fukuda — continue to instinctively recognize the importance of. From their formation in 2011 onwards, this has ultimately helped them create their own unique brand of music — one that is honest, open, and most of all, feels like a much-needed, comforting embrace.

For the Japanese alternative rock band, especially Shiotsuka, the ability to be completely vulnerable with their music is something that comes naturally to them. More specifically, it’s almost impossible for them to not be vulnerable when writing their songs — therefore, it’s the only thing they can do. Over time, this has been a way for them to find emotional liberation, artistically using it to empower themselves — and consequently, others — while being able to limitlessly self-express through their craft as truthfully and as unapologetically as possible.

“Usually in my daily life, I’m more careful and care about how people will look at us, what people will think about us [based] on what we say,” shares Shiotsuka to Billboard Philippines. “But once I’m in the process of the production of [our] songs, I’m not scared of expressing my honest emotions.” 

This innate inclination of the band to be candid about how they feel in their music has helped them ultimately transcend boundaries, showcasing that not even language barriers can prevent them from reaching the hearts of their listeners around the globe — even more so, following an international breakthrough with their song “more than words” being used in the popular animé series Jujutsu Kaisen

“We knew that [“more than words”] was going to change our career but we didn’t expect it to be as big as this,” shared Shiotsuka with a smile, noting how happy it has made them to be able to perform the song, especially for their fans overseas.

A track that champions taking action when it comes to being there for our loved ones, “more than words” is a prime by-product of Hitsujibungaku’s emotional honesty and sincerity when it comes to the songs they bring to life. Furthermore, their latest record 12 hugs (like butterflies) — of which “more than words” is part — is a beautiful showcase of the band’s ability to dig deep into their most personal experiences, with the album’s tracks exploring topics such as self-love, searching for happiness, and dealing with pain. 

The masterful result of coupling these emotions with the band’s signature dreamy tones, bright melodies, and upbeat rhythms is a 12-track album that has ultimately led Hitsujibungaku to deeply connect with even more listeners, to a wider international audience.

hitsujibungaku manila 2024

Courtesy of Sony Music Philippines

Upon being asked what the band hopes people would take away from the album, Shiotsuka — who also serves as the group’s primary songwriter — expresses that it would make the band “very happy” if people are able to resonate with the album’s sound and lyrics in their own unique ways, emphasizing the fact that there is more than one message to be gained from each of the songs.

Over the years, Hitsujibungaku’s introspective and open-minded thematic approach — alongside, as Kasai shares, gaining needed inspiration by listening to a variety of different artists — has resulted in a very vibrant discography that continues to gracefully transform with every era of the band that passes — not just lyrically, but sonically as well. Ultimately, it bears witness to the power of their heartfelt lyricism that is further elevated by their undeniable musical prowess.

Their latest single “Burning,” which serves as the ending theme for the new season of the Oshi no Ko animé, is a reflection of this, with Shiotsuka highlighting the struggle between an artist’s onstage and offstage personas. It is aptly matched by the grittier and more angst-ridden instrumentals the band have explored in their other work, serving as the latest proof of the trio’s ever-evolving musicality.

As the band are currently on their 2024 Asia tour, their refined artistry is something many of their listeners abroad can look forward to experiencing in person — including their Filipino fans at their highly anticipated first Manila show on July 6. “We’re really looking forward [to see] how the Filipino listeners will enjoy our music and their reactions to our performance!” states Shiotsuka. Additionally, Kasai hopes that the Filipino fans would enjoy the concert, noting how they have curated a special setlist for the Manila crowd that includes both their latest and their older tracks, fully showcasing who the band essentially are to their long-awaiting followers in the Philippines.

Following this, Hitsujibungaku have a lot in store for the rest of 2024 as they are set to take some next big steps in their musical journey, including heading to Jakarta and returning to Thailand. With plans of a tour across Japan later this year, a performance at the prestigious Summer Sonic Festival, a special Christmas show, as well as a new album in the works, the band continues to ride the momentum of their major international breakthrough. With this success, they bring its energy home to Japan and everywhere else they go, with no signs of them slowing down just yet.

As they continue to gain global recognition in the presnt, it is undeniable that Hitsujibungaku’s expertise of musically adapting and experimenting have been instrumental in helping them to keep flourishing as artists, even after more than a decade into their career. Ultimately, however, their music stands as testament to the fact that — thanks to their vulnerability and sincerity — what will get them even further is their inherent capability to meaningfully connect with every listener, no matter the song or the subject matter.

Listen to Hitsujibungaku’s 12 hugs (like butterflies) below: