GBA Lifestyle News
Travel Outside HK Section
By The Loop HK Staff | February 20th, 2023
  • Countryside, Culture, Heritage, Wellness Travel

In desperate need of some TLC for your body, mind and soul? “The Onsen Experience” author Iris Law will be hosting an all-inclusive onsen retreat to Japan’s Minakami region this spring, and she dishes the deets below, along with the myriad of wonders that taking a soak in one of Nippon’s fabled hot springs could do for one’s health.

Japanese onsen
An outdoor retreat in Japan

What is an onsen and why should one try it? What are some health benefits of going to an onsen?

Onsen means “hot spring” in Japanese. These natural, mineral-rich waters gush out from the ground and are collected in bathing facilities of onsen inns for people to enjoy. They can also be found naturally in the wild.

Bathing in an onsen is not only beneficial for one’s health — it also offers a quiet reflective experience that brings deep joy and peace to your mind and spirit. It is spiritual and awe-inspiring when you soak in the power and beauty of nature.

There are 10 main types of onsen waters in Japan, and each offers different mineral compositions that are believed to alleviate a variety of body conditions such as skin problems, digestive issues, muscle and joint pain, as well as high blood pressure. Japan even has a term for hot spring therapy, called “tõji”. In the old days, farmers used to go for a month-long tōji treatment after harvesting in order to recuperate their health.

Why is Japan so well known for their onsen?

Due to Japan’s active volcanic activities, there are more than 30,000 geothermal springs across Japan. Japan has the highest volume of onsen water in the world, with over 2.6 million liters of water gushing out from the ground every minute.

Tell us more about the upcoming retreat to Minakami that you’re organizing!

The Onsen Wellness Retreat will be held in the town of Minakami in Gunma Prefecture from May 7 to 10. It is just 75 minutes away by Shinkansen from Tokyo, at a convenient countryside location.

This wellness retreat was crafted with kindness. It is not simply a relaxation or pampering. Unlike other wellness retreats, my program is inspired by the ancient Japanese way of nurturing the mind and body. I designed it to bring participants a fun-filled and fruitful experience that gives harmony to the mind, body and soul: participants will return home feeling renewed and recharged.

Why did you choose Minakami? What is so special about it?

Autumn scenery in Minakami town, Gunma, Kanto, Japan

There are so many good reasons to choose Minakami for my onsen wellness retreat. Minakami is a registered UNESCO Biosphere Reserve area with an abundance of natural environments. It is surrounded by gorgeous mountain and scenery. The area is rich in biodiversity and encourages sustainable development, where humans and nature can coexist in harmony. Minakami is paradise for onsen lovers: it features 18 onsen areas with high-quality onsen water. Besides, Minakami is located at the source of the Tone River, which is Tokyo’s major water supply. It is also famous for its outdoor activities and rich local produce.

What’s a highlight from the itinerary?

Inspired by the Japanese way of nurturing their mind and body, we will offer one-of-a-kind experiences like hot spring therapy “tōji”, and we will also have forestry professionals in Minakami to take us for a very special forest experience that requires a special permit to do so (top secret!).

Special experiences include:
• A JAPANESE HERITAGE Stay in traditional Japanese ryokan
• CONNECTING WITH NATURE wrapped in natural scenery
• REJUVENATING wellness activities
• HEALING Onsen Therapy “Toji”
• NOURISHING farm-to-table local cuisine
• AWAKENING gyrokinesis workout
• SILENCE mindfulness meditation
• INSPIRING local cultural activities

What’s the difference between your onsen wellness retreat and other wellness-related retreats in the market?

Some of the more common wellness retreats include yoga retreats, detox retreats, silent retreats, fitness retreats and meditation retreats. While my onsen wellness retreat shares a few similar purposes and objectives, it is the FIRST EVER onsen-themed retreat, which is different from other retreats available in the market. Led by a former banking executive (myself!) turned hot spring specialist and health coach, the program is designed to help busy bees bridge the gap between their physical self and spiritual self based on the ancient Japanese way of nurturing oneself.

Information about the retreat can be found at here or by emailing 

The onsen experience
Photo: Man Mo Media