Ito started skating at age 5 and won her first of eight consecutive All-Japan Championships in 1985. She placed fifth at the 1988 Winter Olympics, and later that year became the first woman to land a triple axel in a competition. In 1989, Ito won the World Championship title. She won a silver medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics, where she became the first woman to successfully complete a triple axel in Olympic competition. Ito earned wide praise for her powerful and energetic skating.