Akiko Yano was born in Tokyo and raised in Aomori, Japan. She began playing piano at the young age of three and demonstrated promising talent. When she was only fifteen, Akiko moved to Tokyo on her own and entered into Aoyama Gakuin High School where she pursued her musical career. She later began performing in jazz clubs where her masterful skill at the piano brought her popularity among other musicians. Akiko joined a band with roots in Tin Pan Alley.
Akiko recorded her debut album, Japanese Girl, primarily in Los Angeles with Lowell George and Little Feat. When it was released in 1976 many reputed her to be a "girl with a musical wonder."
She then began collaborating with Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). They continued to play on her next recording projects and invited Akiko to join them on two of their worldwide tours. Akiko expanded her musical collaborations with YMO on her subsequent CD releases. Akiko continued to release CDs joined by JAPAN and Pat Metheny and has performed on albums by Thomas Dolby and other artists. In 1990 Akiko relocated to New York where she collaborated and toured with some of the world's most renowned musicians including The Chieftains, Toninho Horta and Jeff Bova on his project THE HAMMONDS.
Akiko's credits extend beyond her album projects. She was showcased by the famed Japanese animation film company, Studio Ghibli, who are known for works such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, showcased her. Akiko composed the music for the film My Neighbors, The Yamadas, and created and performed the sound effects using only her voice for two short films Yadosagashi and Mizugumo Monmon by animation director, Hayao Miyazaki. Both films were shown at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. More recently in 2008, Akiko performed as a voiceover actress on Ponyo on The Cliff By The Sea as Ponyo's sisters. In addition, Akiko composed music for Toei's animated feature, Atashin'chi and piano-based soundtrack for the film Tagatameni featuring actor Tadanobu Asada.
As an international artist, Akiko has toured Europe extensively, performing at The Montreux Jazz Festival, Café de la Danse, and Cite de la Musique in Paris. In 2002, she also performed a week of special concerts at Pizza Express in London. In the United States, Akiko has performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and New York City where she periodically plays concerts throughout the year at the famous Joe's Pub at the New York Public Theater. Akiko's concert series have been supported by a growing number of enthusiastic fans. In recent years she has appeared at the Blue Note New York as a guest performer for Janis Siegel of The Manhattan Transfer, and as part of a trio with Anthony Jackson on bass and Cliff Almond on drums in concerts at the Blue Note Tokyo since 2003. In 2008, New York guitarist, Marc Ribot joined Akiko for sold-out shows at the Blue Note Tokyo.
August 2007 marked her second debut as yanokami, a pop unit with rei harakami, an electronic musician and sought-after producer. In March 2008, they released yanokamick an English version of their debut album, and appeared at Mosaic Music Festival in Singapore.
To date, Akiko has released 27 original albums, of which 3 albums were released by Nonesuch Records: AKIKO YANO, a compilation album selected by Bob Hurwitz and John Zorn (1990), LOVE LIFE (1993) and PIANO NIGHTLY (1996). In October 2008, her 27th original album akiko was released. The album was produced by Grammy-Award winning producer, T Bone Burnett and recorded in Los Angeles, California.