Akira was born in Manhattan, New York, the only child of Japanese parents, both immigrants. She lived in SoHo and moved to Tokyo at age 9 when her father, a portrait photographer, was relocated there for work. She returned to the United States at age 13 and moved to Downtown Brooklyn and later Clinton Hill. In a 2014 interview, Akira described her childhood as being "perfectly normal." Her family spoke Japanese at home and were "health nuts" who avoided junk food.
As a teenager, Akira worked at the children's bookstore Books of Wonder as a cashier.
Gorgeous, Asa Akira, is Shaitanshammer's inaugural, Friday Kitten.