Born in Shinagawa, Tokyo, in 1941, Akiyama studied in the Faculty of Political Science of Waseda University and then went to Tokyo College of Photography, graduating in 1964. He became an assistant to Yasuhiro Ishimoto but very quickly turned freelance. With Haruo Satō, he created Wakai gunzō (若い群像), a series of photographs of young people within crowds, taken close up with a wide-angle lens that won acclaim; it led to a series of collaborations with Satō.
Akiyama traveled to east and west Europe just before the destruction of the Berlin Wall; he also photographed carnivals in the West Indies at around this time.
Akiyama taught at Punjab College of Photography from 1970.