Onsens, ryokans and sentos

In Japan, there is an ancient custom called “Sento” [銭 湯] that still survives today. Such a custom can cause us to be awkward if we take into account some conservative aspects of Japanese society, but it instigates us for being treated with great naturalness by Japanese natives. Visiting an onsen, ryokan or sento are unique experiences in Japan. They are part of Japanese culture and many tourists are attracted by the beauty, comfort and hospitality of these places.


Differences between onsen, ryokan and sento.

The Sento are actually bathrooms where users can enjoy a shared bath. Basically, hot spring baths in Japan are classified as onsen and ryokan. Sento, the traditional Japanese bath offers heated water, but not from hot springs. The sento is a public bathroom in a closed environment, while the onsen and ryokan offer the experience in external or internal area, with public or private environment. The ryokan includes accommodation and food, like hotels.


This type offers bathing in an outdoor area in contact with nature. Hinokiburo The experience is more like a hot tub, with a Japanese wooden bathtub and water with aromatic oils. Ryokans and onsens can even offer mineral-enriched waters to help them relax and be therapeutic.

  • Rules of etiquette Before entering the ryokan, onsen or sitting down, remove your shoes right at the entrance, locals have small closets near the reception. This rule, moreover, applies to practically all locations in Japan. In hotels, it is also necessary to remove your shoes to enter the rooms.
  • There is a reserved place to store clothes and belongings. Some offer lockers with lockers, but most have small bookcases with baskets. Clothes should be placed folded and objects should not be scattered in any way.
  • The use of cell phones and smartphones is prohibited.
  • Before entering the hot spring, it is necessary to take a shower first, with respect and hygiene.
  • Consider your neighbor. It is recommended to shower gently, without splashing water or soap on all sides and without leaving any belongings scattered.
  • Public baths are separated by sex, respect it.
    After taking a shower, the rule is to keep the place organized and as clean as possible, with no hair down the drain. In the same way with soap suds, rinse and keep everything organized.
    Who has long or medium hair should hold it in the form of a bun and with the help of staples, so that the strands do not fall on the floor or water. Wrapping the towel around your head is not allowed.
  • Large towels should not be taken inside, the rule is to go naked, but a small towel is allowed, but never place it on the edges of fountains, chairs, in the water or anywhere else. It is recommended to place it on top of the head.
  • Swimming is not allowed, when moving around do not make sudden movements, the idea is to sit and relax.
  • Don’t talk out loud or be extravagant in your manners.
    Make sure to collect all your belongings from the locker room, don’t leave wet towels behind.


To identify the Sento bathhouses in the cities you just need to orient yourself by the letter in hiragana ゆ (Yu). All bathrooms use this symbol to identify the place as a bathroom. Otoko no yu (男 の 湯) is the male bathing area, while Onna no yu is the female bathing area (女 の 湯). The ryokans offer yukata suits for their guests after their bath, there are common areas to meet your friends and enjoy a drink before eating. Have you ever visited an onsen, bathed in a sento or stayed in a ryokan? In our app we have a special category for you who want to do this experience for Japanese culture. Download BYGS totally free, allow your location and take the opportunity to explore the world around you!
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