OKINAWA
Stairway to Heaven

(Photo by Shoji Kudaka)

One day in mid-October, I climbed the “Stairway to Heaven”, a long series of stairs that run up a hill north of Camp Foster. The location borders the west end of Plaza Housing Area and is a great place for some cardio.

It had been a while since my coworker had told me about this sweat-inducing set of stairs, but getting there is a bit difficult. Not only do you have to navigate the small roads in the residential area, but parking is not available in the area for SOFA members and other folks coming from U.S. military bases. Plus, climbing stairs has never been my thing.

A photo of the view from the top of the stairs was what finally convinced me to make the trek to the Stairway to Heaven. It was the perfect way to get active for “Supōtsu no Ak,i” or autumn for sports in Japanese.

A day after seeing the photo of the enticing landscape, I decided to go see it for myself.

To get there, I parked on Camp Foster near the Firehouse Gate. I took a 10-minute walk past Killin Elementary School toward the stairs. A sign reminding SOFA members to not park there signaled that I’d arrived at the spot.

From the bottom of the stairs, I saw several people jogging up and down. And since I could see straight up from the bottom, the stairs seemed very steep.

The stairs looked challenging, but since I was on a mission, I started my ascent. As I climbed, I realized the steps were a little bit on the wider side, making them a bit easier to walk up than I had thought. Though it was a little easier, it took less than 20 seconds to be drenched in sweat. The climb was difficult, and I had to step aside several times to let others pass me. With a camera in hand, climbing these stairs soon became an intense workout for my legs and arms.

Naturally, I had to stop several times to catch my breath. Halfway up the hill, I was already exhausted. But even from there, I had a very nice view of the west coast, which motivated me to go higher. I tried to count how many steps I covered, but I lost track of the number after 200. (Several websites indicate that this stairway has 268 steps in total). Albeit my struggle, I reached the top in about 15 minutes.

Under the sunny sky, the west coast looked calm and peaceful. The view felt very fresh since the area I was looking at had always seemed noisy on the ground level due to heavy traffic and many stores lining the streets. Once I took photos of the nice view, I joined other folks who were taking a rest at the top.

“I don’t come here very often. I must tell you, this is a very intense cardio, a lot of stairs,” said Tyemi Avanti, a military spouse who was there with another military spouse, Alene Sanchez. They said they were still new to the location, explaining that this was the second visit for Avanti, and the first for Sanchez. But they were already in their third-round trip of the day, and they seemed rejuvenated and full of energy.

“The view is absolutely beautiful,” Avanti said. “The ocean from here just gives me peace.

“I believe when you are climbing the steps, and in my head, I think, I have to work hard to be able to get on top and have a beautiful view,” she continued. “Just like life, everything for you to get to a point of life, you have to work hard. Nothing is easy, nothing is for free.”

We agreed that the stairs are aptly named since the end of all the hard work is a beautiful view and the pleasure of a job well done that feels like Heaven on Earth.

Stairway to Heaven

GPS Coordinates: 26.310783, 127.775813

*No parking space available on site.

*I did not measure the distance from the bottom to the top of the stairs, but the healthcare app on my smartphone indicates that I walked roughly 250 to 300 m.

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