Nobuko Imai (Tokyo, 1943) began her training at Tokyo's Toho Gakuen School of Music and soon after went to the United States, where she studied at the Juilliard School and Yale University. She won the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 1967, and won the highest prize at both the Geneva International Music Competition and the ARD International Music Competition in Munich.
As a chamber musician, Nobuko Imai has worked with artists such as Martha Argerich, Kyung-Wha Chung, Heinz Holliger, Mischa Maisky, Midori, Murray Perahia, Gidon Kremer, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, András Schiff, Isaac Stern, and Pinchas Zukerman. She appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She is a former member of the Vermeer Quartet and is the founder and a member of the Michelangelo Quartet, where she performs together with Mihaela Martin, Daniel Austrich, and Frans Helmerson.
Her discography includes more than thirty releases on labels such as BIS, Chandos, DG, EMI, Hyperion, and Philips. She has been a recipient of numerous awards including the Avon Arts Award (1993), Japan's Suntory Music Award (1995), and Mainichi Award of Arts (1996). Toru Takemitsu composed the viola concerto A String around Autumn for her in 1989.
Between 1983 and 2003 Nobuko Imai taught at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold. She is currently teaching at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, the Conservatoire Supérieur et Académie de Musique Tibor Varga in Sion in Switzerland, and at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique de Genève in Geneva. For young musicians from Japan and the Netherlands, she founded the East West Baroque Academy.
She has played a 1690 Andrea Guarneri instrument since 1988.