Sento vs Onsen

Tokyo Culture Onsen 2019.07.16
Whilst we've been writing about Sentos and Onsens, we haven't been noting the differences between the two. There are obvious differences and some that aren't. Let's take a look at what it takes to name a bath an Onsen.
Sento vs Onsen
While both of the above are baths that are publicly available, there are differences that distinguish the two from one another.
Let's quickly take a tour on this topic!

The Onsen Laws in Japan

Well, ...
First of all, yes, we do have laws for onsen in Japan.
Onsen in Japan, when strictly talking about it according to the Onsen Law, is a hot spring that is naturally available around the country.
It can be the hot water itself, or it can be the gas that's been produced from it.
The main difference is
While Onsen refers to hot springs that are naturally available near the volcanic areas of Japan, a sento is usually a bath that has been man-made.

Onsen is strictly governed and being conserved by the Onsen Laws of Japan and has many conditions it has to clear before they can call it an Onsen.

There are many famous places for Onsen around Japan.
Just to name a few, Hakone in Kanagawa, Kusatsu in Gunma, Noboribetsu in Hokkaido, Dogo in Ehime and Beppu in Oita are places that are well known.
The Sento
  • Sento interior
Sento【銭湯: せんとう】, also used to be called Yuya【湯屋:ゆや】(can be directly translated as a hop that sells hot water) or Furoya【風呂屋:ふろや】(simply meaning a bath shop), is a public bath. 

The origin of bathing in Japan is said to be brought into the country with the Buddhism religion, in the form of ablution (similar to baptism). However, over time, hot baths became so popular that by the Heian period (during the years between 794 - 1192) it was first commercialised in Kyoto.
  • The Engawa
Just a little note for you.
The word Sento when written in Kanji as above, is broken down into [銭= money] for [湯=hotwater] thus means public bath.
Nowadays, there are venues called "Super-Sento", which have more facilities than just a Sento, such as saunas and places to relax or eat meals outside the bath area.
The unique traditional culture of sento is slightly fading away as the younger generation of the Japanese are losing interests, venues like super-sentos are making up for it as they come up with different new ideas. There are onsens that combine the aspects of super-sentos as well nowadays like the one in Tokyo.
Which one would you like?
Try both to see the difference and let us know how you think about it!

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