Rika Ito is an Asian Studies professor who received a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Michigan State University. She teaches the Japanese language (all levels), Asian Studies, and linguistic courses. 

Rika specializes in sociolinguistics, examining language variation across time/space and considering what it implies to the users. Lately, she has incorporated more socio-cultural, historical, and political aspects in analyzing variation. For example, she investigates the role of language ideologies concerning power, represented in scripted popular media through sociolinguistic differences. She has identified that TV dramas and anime routinely reproduce the dominance of English in Japan, the prevalence of standard Japanese over regional dialects, and the stereotypes projected on foreign and gender non-conforming characters. Two of her publications are co-authored with her former students (Ito & Bislia, 2020; Gilbert & Ito, 2020). 

Her 2022 article (Ito, 2022) analyzes the representation of the Ainu language, the indigenous language of northern Japan, in the anime Golden Kamuy by incorporating the notion of "edutaiment." Her latest article (Ito, 2024) examines GK's representational strategies of Ainuness using a raciolinguistic perspective, coloniality, and intersectionality. It problematizes the series, depicting a sanitized Ainu-Japanese relationship while reproducing Ainu as a dying race, although no characters were portrayed negatively. It is part of a larger collaborative work with Prof. Christina Spiker (Art/Art History and Asian Studies) to examine Ainu issues in contemporary Japan. They visited various Ainu-themed museums in the summer of 2023 and presented their preliminary analysis at the 16th International Conference on the Inclusive Museum Conference in the fall. Now, they are writing a manuscript for a journal publication. 

Check her ORCID to see the list of publications!


On the weekend, Ito-sensee enjoys gardening and playing with her 20-year-old cat, Hana-chan.