Onsen Glossary

Don’t speak much Japanese? Here are a few phrases that will help you sound like an onsen connoisseur! There may even be a few new phrases for those who do have some Japanese language skills.

Keep an occasional eye on this page as the glossary expands over the year.

The basics

  • onsen -hot spring
  • yu – hot water. Often used with “no” proceeding to indicate the name of a hot spring resort eg Kazuma-no-yu
  • ofuro – bath
  • rotenburo – open air baths (outside)
  • onna-yu – ladies bath
  • otoko-yu – men’s bath

Accessories and garments

  • yukata – Japanese cotton kimono – often provided at ryokan and bath houses for guests to relax in for the day.
  • taoru- towel
  • sham-poo – shampoo
  • toritomento – conditioner

Types of baths

Here are a few types of baths that you can experience! The fact that there are so many different words to describe bathing shows you just how deeply entrenched the art of bathing is in Japanese culture.

  • ashi-yu- foot bath
  • kake-yu – “throw water” – using a ladle to pour hot warer over your body
  • ne-yu “sleeping bath” – allows you to relax a lie in shallow water
  • utase-yu- “beating water” – water beating down on your back
  • awase-yu – taking a series of baths between relaxation and stimulation types
  • suna-yu- sand bath
  • deiyoku – mud bath
  • mushi-yu – steam bath
  • jizoku-yu – long baths a lower temperature eg 34-37 degrees Celsius
  • ganban-yoku – bed-rock /hot stone bathing


  • atsui – hot
  • nurui – tepid or lukewarm