Legendary Pianist Kenny Barron has described Ayako as " an extremely gifted musician. Ayako is blessed with great technique, a fertile and creative imagination, a firm understanding of the jazz tradition and a real love for the music."
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Ayako was educated at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music where she majored in classical piano. Ayako started playing piano at the age of five. While in the fifth grade, she began transcribing Bud Powell solos and studying jazz piano with her father. In 1981, she was awarded the "Encouragement Prize" in the Musical Scholarship Competition sponsored by NHK. Thereafter, Ayako began to perform regularly at the "J" jazz club in Tokyo and was featured in an issue of Swing Journal magazine.
At the age of 14, Ayako and her piano trio entered the 3rd Asakusa Jazz Contest, winning the Grande Prize Award. Later that year, she appeared on the "Session '83" NHK-FM radio program after being recommended by the well-known jazz critic, Toshio Honda.
During high school and college, Ayako concentrated on classical music. She performed as a classical pianist for several years after graduation before deciding to focus on jazz music. In 1995, Ayako was awarded second prize in the First Annual Heineken Jazz Competition. One of the judges at this competition, veteran pianist Ray Bryant, was particularly impressed with Ayako's performance.
Ayako moved to New York in 1997, and studied piano and composition with Bruce Barth. In 1999, she received a scholarship to enter the masters program at the Manhattan School of Music and in that same year began studying piano with Kenny Barron, improvisation with Ted Rosenthal, and composition with Mike Abene. Ayako is currently performing at many jazz venues in NY city.