The concept of 守破離 (shu-ha-ri) has been applied to pursuits of all kinds over the years, including the tea ceremony, noh drama, and various martial and visual arts.

It describes three stages of development in a creative person: 守 (shu) means keeping or adhering to the form and rules of an art by following a teacher without question. 破 (ha) is the point of digression, a willful veering away from the tradition with the intent to explore. Finally, 離 (ri) refers to a transcendent state, achieved through long practice and focus, where the act of creating happens naturally and work of the highest order stems from the deepest roots of the artist's being.

Although she turned 104 years old on March 28, Toko Shinoda, having passed through shu and ha in her formative years, seems to have been existing comfortably in the ri stage since at least the mid-1960s. A favorite artist of the Imperial Couple and the only living Japanese to be immortalized on a postage stamp, Shinoda remains as immersed in her creative endeavors as ever.