Emiko Nakano was born in Sacramento, California, to immigrant parents from Japan in 1925. She was one of six children and grew up in Chico, California. Nakano was a high school student when the United States entered World War II, which resulted in her family being incarcerated first at the Merced Assembly Center in California and then at Amache in Colorado. After three years, the family returned to Richmond, California, and she enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts in the fall of 1947 through the summer of 1951. Nakano studied under Clyfford Still, James Budd Dixon, Edward Corbett, Richard Diebenkorn, Hassel Smith, and Elmer Bischoff, painting landscapes with abstracted geometric compositions. She also spent one summer in 1949 at the University of California, Berkeley, and one summer in 1952 at Mills College in Oakland. From 1951 to 1959, Nakano participated in the San Francisco Art Association oil painting, drawing & print, and watercolor annual exhibitions. By the mid-1950s, her work became increasingly abstracted and incorporated bright colors as well as sumi-e ink. Nakano won prizes in the San Francisco Women Artists shows held at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1953 and 1956, as well as in the San Francisco Art Association annuals in 1953, 1954, and 1957. She has exhibited and is in the collections of Whitney, Metropolitan, San Francisco Museum of Moden Art, De Young Museum, Long Beach Museum, Monterey Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum, and Stanford University Museum.