Akiko Wada is Japanese with a Korean ethnicity. She was born Kim Bok-Ja (Korean: 김 복자, Hanja: 金 福子, Kim is the family name). Like many Zainichi Koreans, she also had a Japanese-style name for everyday use, Fukuko Kaneumi(金海福子,Kaneumi Fukuko?). When she took Japanese citizenship, her name became Akiko Wada(和田 現子,Wada Akiko?), which upon marriage became Akiko Iizuka(飯塚 現子,Iizuka Akiko?).
She is signed to the Horipro entertainment agency.
At age 17, she dropped out of school and performed in clubs. She was signed to the Horipuro entertainment agency and released her debut single, "Hoshizora no Kodoku" in 1968 and had her first hit the next year with "Doshaburi no Ame no Naka de". She performed on Kōhaku Uta Gassen, a music show broadcast live every New Year's Eve, in 1970 and has performed over 30 times on the show since then. She received the award for Best Song at the 1972 Japan Record Awards for "Ano Kane wo Narasu no wa Anata".