Learn Japanese Hiragana Alphabet | AIUEO: Ro (ろ) Rotenburo (ろてんぶろ)

Alphabet is the foundation of the English language, and the same thing can be said about hiragana in the Japanese language. Mastering hiragana is important for anyone who wants to learn the basics of Japanese. As one of the two Japanese alphabets — right next to katakana — hiragana is used for both Japanese grammars and function words. Today, we’ll be learning about the Japanese hiragana ro and rotenburo.

Because of this, having a strong foundation of hiragana means having a generally strong foundation of Japanese skills, too. Yet despite its importance, it shouldn’t take a long time for you to master hiragana. In fact, with the right teacher and support, it should only take no longer than a week for you to master hiragana, including reading and writing them. Hiragana’s shapes are relatively simple, especially if you compare them to kanji. Dwell no further. In this blog series, we’ll be breaking down all the Japanese phonetics (AIUEO or あいうえお) for beginners.

Want to take your kanji skills up a notch? Check our comprehensive kanji page for study tips, kanji life hacks and free worksheets!

Today’s Japanese Hiragana: Ro (ろ)

The hiragana characters for the ‘R’ family have one of the most simple strokes — most of them are less than one stroke and, at the very most, two. There’s the ra, ri, ru, re, ro (ら、り、る、れ、ろ). The character for ro is is similar to ru (). The only difference is that there is no tail that curls inward. Remember to follow the stroke order and practice writing them as it is a great way to help you master hiragana in a short time. Be careful not to get ro and ru mixed up.

Learn a Japanese word from Ro (ろ): Rotenburo (ろてんぶろ)

What is a Rotenburo?

A rotenburo is an open-air hot-spring bath. “Ro” (露) means is exposed without walls or fences. “Ten” (天) means the sky, while “furo” (風呂) is, well, a bath in Japanese. Rotenburo is the second most common Japanese bath, right next to onsen.

Have you ever bathed in a rotenburo?

These days, rontenburo can be found on the rooftops of business hotels and in super sento bath houses even in Tokyo. The scenery can be breathtaking. Soaking your body into warm, mineral-rich hot water while getting the full view of gleaming city skyline is an experience a lot of people dream of. But while city rotenburo are just fine, without a doubt, rotenburo that offer natural views of the mountains or ocean is on another level.

Rotenburo, image, photo, picture, illustration

Author’s experience

There are a lot of impressive rotenburo. One of the greatest that I’ve visited so far was at an inn in Tobira Onsen spa in Nagano Prefectre. The surrounding was so white it was like stepping into a magical world. I felt like I was in some hazy dream.

Another one I’d like to mention was a rotenburo at an old inn in Ojiro Onsen spa town in Shizuoka Prefecture. The rotenburo was really close to the ocean — or more precisely, it sat on top of the ocean. The hot water would overflow from the bath to the sea water. It was as if I was bathing in the vast open sea instead of a small hot tub.  

Rotenburo, image, photo, picture, illustration

Japan’s Onsen Culture and History

By the way, wouldn’t you agree that the Japanese are unmatched their love of hot baths or onsen? Japan has about 100 active volcanoes, and this is why the country has lots of hot springs. Apparently, there are about 3,000 hot springs scattered throughout all 47 prefectures. There are also theories that say that Japan’s bathing culture started as much as 6,000 years ago, with rotenburo being one of the main predecessors. We can wonder if the Japanese who lived thousands of years ago had the same kinds of feelings about bathing in rotenburo as we do now.

Japan’s bathing culture continued on for centuries since then. During the Edo period (1603–1868), the city of Edo (or present-day Tokyo) had lots of public bathhouses (these were not rotenburo, but baths inside buildings). Not many of the houses in Edo had a bath, so lots of people would go to the bathhouse. Japanese bathouses turn into something. Not just a place for, well, taking baths, it becomes a spot for townspeople to get together and foster a sense of community. 

These days, small bathhouses are disappearing from towns and cities. On the other hand, facilities such as super sento are visited by lots of people, from children to old folks. They enjoy a variety of bathing styles.

About this week’s blog author:

Shigemi Matsumoto was a junior high school Japanese teacher for 23 years before joining Coto Language Academy. He is an experienced Japanese language teacher. He currently teaches Coto’s Intensive Courses (intermediate and advanced), Business Courses and Part-time N1 grammar and reading classes. He is also involved in developing teaching materials at Coto Academy.

Want to learn more fun facts from Japanese hiragana? Check out our AIUEO series!

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