She spent her early childhood traveling the world as her father earned his PhD from University of Pennsylvania and later taught there. She spent her preschool days in the United States when her father received a PhD in Regional Economy from the University of Pennsylvania and later taught there. Princess Kiko attended elementary and high school in Vienna, Austria, when her father became the chief researcher at The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria, where he studied spatial science and NGO activities. The future princess became fluent in English and German. She participated in the Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP) in 1987 and continues to be a supporter of the program. She received her undergraduate degree from the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Letters of Gakushuin University in 1989. Kiko subsequently began graduate study in psychology at Gakushuin and completed the first part of the doctorate in 1995.
She was chosen as one of the Young Global Leaders for 2007, drawn from a poll of 4000 candidates.
Prince Akishino first proposed marriage to Kawashima Kiko on 26 June 1986 while they were both undergraduates at Gakushuin. Three years later, Imperial Household Council announced the engagement. The wedding took place at an exclusive shrine at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on 29 June 1990. The Imperial Household Economy Council had previously granted the prince permission to establish a new branch of the imperial family and the Emperor granted him the title Akishino no miya(Prince Akishino) on his wedding day. Upon marriage, his bride became Her Imperial Highness Princess Akishino, known informally as Princess Kiko.
The engagement and marriage of Prince Akishino to the former Kawashima Kiko broke precedent in several respects. First, at the time, the groom was still a graduate student at Gakushuin and married before his older brother, Crown Prince Naruhito. Additionally, the princess was the first woman from a middle-class background to marry into the imperial family. Unusual for the time, their engagement and marriage were romantically based, rather than arranged.
Princess Akishino completed her post-graduate studies in psychology in between her official duties and received her master's degree in psychology in 1995. She is known for her continuing interest in deaf culture and the Deaf in Japan. She learned Japanese sign language and she is a skilled sign language interpreter. She attends the "Sign Language Speech Contest for High School Students" held every August, and "Praising Mothers Raising Children with Hearing Impairments" every December. In October 2008, she participated in the "38th National Deaf Women's Conference."She also signs in informal Deaf gatherings.
The princess suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoporosis aggravated by child-nursing, a symptom common among middle-aged women, her doctor said on 14 December 2007.
Since 1997, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko and their children have maintained a principal residence on the grounds of the Akasaka Palace in Motoakasaka, Minato, Tokyo. The couple have two daughters and one son:
- Princess Mako who was born 23 October 1991.
- Princess Kako who was born 29 December 1994
- Prince Hisahito who was born 6 September 2006
The Prince and Princess have made numerous official visits to foreign countries. In June 2002, they became the first members of the Imperial Family to visit Mongolia, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In October 2002, they visited the Netherlands to attend the funeral of the Prince Claus of the Netherlands. In September 2003, the Prince and Princess made goodwill visits to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, again, the first time ever members of the Imperial Family had visited these countries. In March 2004, the Prince and Princess returned to the Netherlands for the funeral of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. In January 2005, they visited Luxembourg to attend the funeral of Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte. In January 2006, they visited Indonesia for a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Republic of Indonesia. From October to November 2006, they visited Paraguay to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japanese emigration to that country.
Princess Akishino has also assumed the role of Patroness of the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, succeeding the Late Princess Chichibu in June 1994. She also plays an active role in the Japanese Red Cross Society.