In Japan, there are two different types of hot springs: Onsen (温泉) and Ryokan (旅館). 

Onsen is a general term for any spring or pool that offers bathing. Ryokan refers to traditional Japanese inns where travelers can stay the night, usually in an individual tatami room with a shared bathroom. 

Onsen often has public baths, but they tend to be coed while ryokans offer private baths. Sometimes people will go to both during their trip because they each provide something different. 

But how much do you really know about the difference between these two?

What does Ryokan mean?

Ancient ryokan

Ryokan 旅館 are traditional Japanese inns and have provided a place to stay since the 7th century. 

They are a family-owned business that often offers several amenities such as baths, Onsen, restaurants, hot springs, and more. 

One of the main differences between an onsen and a ryokan is that an onsen usually charges per person for entry. In contrast, ryokan charges for an entire room, often including communal bathing facilities.

What does Onsen mean?

Onsen

Onsen 温泉 translates to hot spring, and it is a trendy tourist spot in Japan. 

Onsens can be found all over the country but are mainly concentrated on Japan’s Kyushu island and are known for their highly acidic water that comes with healing properties. 

Onsens often have different bathing options, including rotenburo (open-air baths), onsen tubs, and saunas.


What Is The Difference Between Ryokan And Onsen?

Open Onsen

Ryokan is often translated as a “Japanese Inn,” which could also be described as accommodation with rental of its private baths or hot springs. 

On the other hand, onsen bathing facilities are typically found close to geothermally active mountain ranges, volcanoes, and oceanic trenches. 

Onsen is a shared bathing facility where the hot water is derived from subsurface geological features. 

If you want to soak in a hot spring, Onsen would be your best option since they often provide a more authentic experience in terms of traditional Japanese bathing culture than Ryokan does.

The word “onsen” (温泉) is a Japanese word that literally translates to “hot spring,” but what it implies is much more. 

Onsens are magnificent, natural assets of the country’s water resources and typically found in proximity to geothermally active areas such as mountain ranges, volcanoes, and oceanic trenches. 

They offer not only serene surroundings for relaxation but also supply a wide variety of medicinal benefits.

Looking at the difference between an onsen and a ryokan, it is clear that they both serve different purposes. 

An onsen is basically a shared bath, but its water comes from natural sources, such as geothermally active areas. A ryokan meanwhile has private baths which you can use for free, and it is a place where you can relax.

Both of them are hot bathhouses that were initially built in the mountainous regions of Japan. Still, an onsen’s water comes from a natural resource, whereas Ryokan’s water comes from tap water.

Lastly, Onsen has many different bathing options, such as Rotenburo (open-air baths), onsen tubs, and saunas, whereas only two people can use the Ryokan’s baths at once.


What makes a ryokan unique?

Ryokan Jonoyu

Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where travelers can stay the night, usually in an individual tatami room with a shared bathroom. 

It was born from the word ryoken, which means “house of ease” or “pleasure house.” During its history, it has been different from the Onsen.

These days there are many different types of Ryokan across Japan. 

At a minimum, it serves meals to its guests and offers them the opportunity to bathe in natural hot spring water. 

However, more luxurious Ryokan may even include sauna facilities, onsen baths, steam baths, and private rooms for couples. 

As the years pass, more and more Japanese people are becoming interested in a ryokan. 

They say that the difference between an onsen and a ryokan is that an onsen charges per person for entry. In contrast, ryokan charges for an entire room can often include communal bathing facilities.

An Onsen is a shared bathing facility where the hot water is derived from subsurface geological features. 

Onsens typically offer a more authentic and traditional experience in terms of Japanese bathing culture than Ryokan does.

It is a place where people can relax and enjoy themselves. A ryokan usually has its own private baths.

After enjoying the sights of Japan, travelers may want to take some time off at a traditional hotel with hot spring baths.   

However, they could be confused as to where Onsen and Ryokan are in Japan. 

To help them out, our writer did some research about the differences between a ryokan and an onsen. 

If you want to soak in a hot spring, Onsen would be your best option since they often provide a more authentic experience in terms of traditional Japanese bathing culture than Ryokan does.

Traditionally, ryokan owners would not want their customers to discover the inns’ private hot spring bath because they wanted them to pay the total price for each use. 

Nevertheless, now many ryokans have no-charge public baths that guests can take advantage of.

But still, if you travel back in time to the Edo period, Ryokan was not called Ryokan but rather sukiya or “pleasure house.”

These places provided bathers with special treatment and included meals for visitors, therefore achieving high-level customer satisfaction.

Luxurious Ryokan often has its own private sauna rooms, onsen baths, and steam baths for you to enjoy. 

In fact, it is not easy to know if a place has hot spring water or not because even some traditional ryokan these days do not use the springs anymore.

Of course, if you want to go to a famous ryokan where hot spring baths are available, it would be best to make a reservation.

Making reservations is also worthwhile in order so that they can provide the type of service that customers want.

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