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.
As a child, Akira attended kindergarten at Chelsea Day School.
Akira was able to secure a scholarship to attend United Nations International School in Manhattan because her grandfather was a Japanese diplomat for 45 years.  She wasn't invited to return in her sophomore year due to her poor grades, so she enrolled in Washington Irving High School in Gramercy Park .  She transferred to City-As-School for her senior year. 
Akira began working as a dominatrix when she was 19 years old.  She later worked as a stripper at the Hustler Club in New York.  In 2006–07 she was a regular on the Bubba the Love Sponge radio show and was known as the "Show Whore".  She met pornographic actress Gina Lynn on the show and she offered her porn work.  Her first boy-girl scene was with Travis Knight for Gina Lynn Productions, after having already done several girl-girl scenes, mainly with Lynn.  She then signed a contract with Vouyer Media before becoming a freelancer six months later.  Asa is her real first name, which means "morning" in Japanese , and the last name in her stage name was taken from the anime film Akira . 
Akira received several award nominations for her role in David Aaron Clark 's 2009 film, Pure , in which she plays a telephonist at a fetish dungeon who has an affair with the head-mistress' husband. 
Akira co-hosted the 30th Annual AVN Awards alongside pornographic actress Jesse Jane and comedian April Macie .  She won the AVN Female Performer of the Year Award that night.  She was also the most awarded person during that ceremony. 
In January 2014, Akira, Dana DeArmond , Chanel Preston , and Jessie Andrews were featured in a Cosmopolitan magazine article titled "4 Porn Stars on How They Stay Fit."  The article was inspired by actress Gabrielle Union 's comment made on Conan O'Brien 's talk show about striving to follow the fitness routines of the porn stars she saw at her gym.
In 2011, Complex ranked Akira fourth on their list of "The Top 100 Hottest Porn Stars Right Now"  and at sixth on their list of "The Top 50 Hottest Asian Porn Stars of All Time".  LA Weekly ranked her third on their list of "10 Innovative Porn Stars Who Could Be the Next Sasha Grey " in 2013.  She was also placed on CNBC 's yearly list "The Dirty Dozen", the site’s annual ranking of the adult industry’s most popular and successful stars in 2012,  2013,  and 2014. 
In 2013 Akira and artist David Choe started a free online podcast featuring 90-minute episodes called DVDASA .  It is aimed at a young adult audience, with its goal being to help youth with their problems related to sexuality, career, relationships, etc.
Akira wrote a memoir titled Insatiable: Porn—A Love Story which was released in May 2014 by Grove Press .  In July 2015, she signed a contract with Cleis Press to publish her second book, titled "Dirty Thirty: A Memoir"; a collection of essays, which is scheduled for release in the fall of 2016.  
On April 6, 2015 The Hundreds started releasing episodes for a series titled Hobbies with Asa Akira , which features Akira trying out different activities such as tattooing , boxing , taxidermy , and ice sculpting . 
Akira states that she is sexually attracted to both men and "girls that look like boys".  She dislikes being called bisexual , claiming to lean towards heterosexuality but to still be uncertain .  She was once engaged to pornographic actor Rocco Reed .  In December 2012, she married pornographic actor and director Toni Ribas . She states that aside from their on-screen work, their relationship is monogamous .  
|2011||AVN Award||Best All-Girl Three-Way Sex Scene (with Alexis Texas & Kristina Rose )||Buttwoman vs. Slutwoman|
|Best Anal Sex Scene (with Manuel Ferrara )||Asa Akira Is Insatiable|
|Best Double Penetration Sex Scene (with Toni Ribas & Erik Everhard )|
|Best Three-Way Sex Scene (G/B/B) (with Prince Yahshua & Jon Jon)|
|Urban X Award||Best Couple Sex Scene (with Mr. Pete )||Vajazzled|
|Porn Star of the Year||N/A|
|2012||AVN Award||Best Anal Sex Scene (with Nacho Vidal )||Asa Akira Is Insatiable 2|
|Best Double-Penetration Scene (with Mick Blue & Toni Ribas)|
|Best Group Sex Scene (with Erik Everhard, Toni Ribas, Danny Mountain , Jon Jon, Broc Adams, Ramón Nomar & John Strong )|
|Best Tease Performance|
|Best Three-Way Sex Scene, Boy/Boy/Girl (with Mick Blue & Toni Ribas)|
|Best Solo Sex Scene||Superstar Showdown 2: Asa Akira vs. Kristina Rose|
|NightMoves Award||Best Ass (Editor's Choice)||N/A|
|XBIZ Award||Female Performer of the Year||N/A|
|XRCO Award||Female Performer of the Year||N/A|
|2013||AVN Award||Best Double-Penetration Sex Scene (with Ramón Nomar & Mick Blue)||Asa Akira Is Insatiable 3|
|Best Group Sex Scene (with Erik Everhard, Ramón Nomar & Mick Blue)|
|Best Three-Way Sex Scene (Girl/Girl/Boy) (with Brooklyn Lee & James Deen )|
|Best POV Sex Scene (with Jules Jordan )||Asa Akira to the Limit|
|Female Performer of the Year||N/A|
|XRCO Award||Female Performer of the Year||N/A|
|NightMoves Award||Best Ethnic Performer (Fan's Choice)||N/A|
|2014||AVN Award||Best Porn Star Website (tied with JoannaAngel.com )||AsaAkira.com|
|NightMoves Award||Best Body (Editor’s Choice)||N/A|
|2015||XRCO Award||Mainstream Adult Media Favorite||N/A|