Shinoda, who studied calligraphy and classic literature from the age of six, wore the traditional Japanese kimono her entire life. But, unlike other women, who wore their obi belts high up on their waists, Shinoda always wore hers low, just on top of her hips, like a man. This sartorial detail perhaps encapsulates everything there is to know about Shinoda: she had deep respect for her cultural heritage, but she never changed herself to accommodate it. She took tradition on her own terms.
Born in 1913, Shinoda was the fifth of seven children. She began her calligraphy classes at the insistence of her father, who, while he was a great lover of Japanese poetry and could be strict, had a touch of the nonconformist in him as well. He rode one of the first three bicycles ever imported to Japan, and, by educating his daughter, gave her a path to independence that was not often afforded Japanese women in the early 20th century.
By the time she was in her teens, Shinoda knew she wanted to make art her life’s work, and also that the confines of traditional calligraphy couldn’t satisfy her creative impulse. In an interview from the 1980s she described feeling intense jealousy of the original creators of the calligraphic strokes - she, too, wanted to create something expressive of her very own, rather than forever copying the ancient work of others.