Sublime Soaks from Aso to Zaou
Independent onsen reviews, hot spring recommendations, Japanese onsen photos, guided onsen spa tours.

          This list of onsen and hot-spring words covers some basics and a few more unusual words, but it's by no means an exhaustive list. We welcome suggestions if you see a word that should be included. However, don't think you need to know all these words before setting foot in a Japanese hot spring -- Most of the time, few words are needed (and even fewer wanted!) in the meditative experience that is the Japanese onsen bath.

Japanese Onsen Glossary

ashiyu - 足湯
shallow onsen, usually less than knee deep, where you can soak your feet. also called "ashinoyu" (足の湯)
atsui - 熱い
bandai - 番台
attendant's booth
bodiisoopu - ボディーソープ
"body soap," often in a pump bottle.
dansei - 男性
man, male, frequently used for distinguishing male versus female baths.
datsuijo - 脱衣所
a changing room between the entry/pay gate and the bath itself, often with lockers or baskets where one can put clothes. Valuables are best placed in coin lockers, though theft is rare.
doroyu - 泥湯
mud bath
furo - 風呂
a bath, often used with the honorific "o" before it, as in "ofuro" (お風呂).
genkan - 玄関
entryway where shoes are removed and stored
geta - 下駄
wooden soled slippers usually worn barefoot, often for walking from one bath to another, especially in dense onsen towns.
getabako - 下駄箱
shoe locker, often a wooden rack with narrow shelves or boxes where shoes can be stored
goemonburo - 五右衛門風呂
a one-person bath, named for a thief who was boiled alive for his crimes.
higaeri - 日帰り
A day trip. Not all ryokan or minshuku allow bathing if one is not a guest. Higaeri bathing hours are usually restricted, and in some places certain baths are reserved only for those staying overnight.
hinoki - 桧
Japanese cypress wood, prized for its fragrance and often used in high-quality, wooden baths
hoteru - ホテル
A Western loan word, often used for multistory, mainstream hotels, and which may feature Western or Japanese-style rooms (or both). Those looking for a Japanese experience are often best off with a "minshuku" or "ryokan."
iousen - 硫黄泉
sulphur spring
jigoku - 地獄
an onsen "hell," frequently used as tourist attractions, often so hot or toxic it's unusable for bathing.
josei - 女性
woman, female, frequently used for distinguishing male versus female baths.
kamaba - 釜場
boiler room
karan - カラン
kashikiriburo - 貸切風呂
bath, often at ryokan, where you can reserve time for private bathing (i.e. couples, families, etc.)
katateyuoke - 片手湯桶
konyokuburo - 混浴風呂
mixed gender bath
kyuukeijo - 休憩所
room for post-bath rest and relaxation, such as napping or sipping a beer
minshuku - 民宿
A basic to mid-range Japanese style inn, less fancy than a "ryokan" but often good value.
mushiburo - 蒸し風呂
steam onsen
natoriumusen - ナトリウム泉
sodium chloride onsen
notenburo - 野天風呂
an outdoor, or "open air" bath. Not always as scenic as a rotenburo.
onna - 女
onsen - 温泉
ideally, a bath, establishment, or town/area where a vent or fissure releases hot, nutrient-rich water used for the baths.
onsen tamago - 温泉卵、温泉たまご
An egg that has been hard-boiled in onsen water, often sold at the entrances for a few hundred yen.
onsenryouhou - 温泉療法
onsen therapy
otoko - 男
pasu - パス
rinsu - リンス
conditioner, rinse
rotenburo - 露天風呂
an outdoor bath, often with a beautiful view or nice atmosphere.
ryokan - 旅館
A mid-range to pricey Japanese-style inn, often with its own onsen baths and 2 meals (dinner, breakfast) included per person in the price.
sakeburo - 酒風呂
onsen with sake (rice wine) added to the water
samui - 寒い
cold (used for air temperature, not water temperature)
sansuke - 三助
an old time bath assistant, usually male, who provided massages and/or back scrubbing for both male and female bathers.
sekken - 石鹸、せっけん
soap, often bar soap
senmenki - 洗面器
senshitsu - 泉質
onsen water quality
sentou - 銭湯
a public bath where regular water is heated to comfortable temperature.
shanpuu - シャンプー
shio - 塩
shouchuuburo - 焼酎風呂
onsen with shouchuu (hard liquor) added to the water
sotoyu - 外湯
A bath not within an inn's or ryokan's premises. A public bath. (Contrasts with "Uchiyu")
sudomari - 素泊まり
Literally, "Just staying," a sudomari plan offers guests at a ryokan or minshuku the chance to save money by opting not to have any meals.
sunayu - 砂湯
sand bath
surippa - スリッパ
takiyu - 滝湯
literally, "waterfall hot water": a stream of water which is often used for massaging the neck and shoulders
taoru - タオル
tearai - お手洗い
toilet, bathroom, washroom, loo
tenoyu - 手の湯
bowl or barrel for soaking hands; quite rare.
toire - トイレ
toilet, bathroom, loo
tsumetai - 冷たい
cool, cold, used for water temperature
uchiyu - 内湯
A bath on an inn's or ryokan's premises. Indoor or private bath. (Contrasts with "Sotoyu")
utaseyu - 打たせ湯
see "takiyu"
yu - 湯、ゆ
hot water, bathwater
yukata - 浴衣、ゆかた
a light robe made of cotton, commonly worn to and from the bath, tied around the waist with an obi (帯).
yumeguri - 湯めぐり
Going around to many baths, as in a "yumeguri bus" that stops at many onsen locations or a "yumeguri pass" that lets one visit multiple baths for a set price.
yunohana - 湯の花、ゆのはな
Mineral deposits in the water or around the edge of the bath. Often, they look like bits of tissue paper floating in the water, and the Japanese view them as an indication of a high quality bath.


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