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

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.

Onsen associates many people with sightseeing, whereas Sento is something near you.

Sento (銭湯)

A Sento Bathhouse

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.

Ofuro (お風呂)

Furo or Ofuro at Home

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.

(Reference Pages: Kotobank 銭湯, Goo Japanese Dictionary 風呂 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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