Onsen vs. Sento vs. Ofuro: What’s the Difference?
Onsen is one of the popular destinations when we go on a sightseeing trip, while I sometimes go to a nearby Sento and take an Ofuro every day.
The three Japanese terms, Onsen (温泉), Sento (銭湯), and Ofuro (お風呂), all relate to soaking in hot water, but what is the difference?
Onsen vs. Sento vs. Ofuro
Among them, Onsen is arguably the best-known. It is the Japanese word for hot spring and often refers to a whole spa town accompanying Ryokan (旅館) hotels using the same spring water.
Scattered around Japan, the hot springs lie in various areas, and famous resorts include Atami Onsen (熱海温泉) in Shizuoka, Beppu Onsen (別府温泉) in Oita, and Kusatsu Onsen (草津温泉) in Gunma.
Many people associate Onsen with sightseeing, whereas Sento is something near you.
Sento is a public bathhouse or a facility where anyone can enjoy bathing in exchange for some money, which doesn’t usually involve an overnight stay.
The origin dates back to 1591 when a man named Ise Yoichi (伊勢与市) opened a bathhouse in Edo (present-day Tokyo) and charged visitors 1 Sen (銭) to take a hot bath or 湯.
Sento typically lies in towns, and many use heated tap water. But some use natural hot spring water dug and found for themselves, and they are a kind of Onsen.
Last, Furo (風呂) or Ofuro is a bath or a place/facility where you can soak in hot water, which includes Onsen, Sento, and a hot tub at home.