From the name alone, it would be safe to assume that the Haiku Stairs are situated in Japan, but this is not the case, although the reason for their existence can be detected in Japan. The Haiku Stairs, also known as the Haiku Ladder and the Stairway to Heaven, is a hiking trail that was installed in order to facilitate the set up of radio communications in 1942. Antenna cables needed to be strung across the Haiku Valley, Oahu, Hawaii and the signals produced by the communication station could be picked up in Tokyo Bay and India, even though the signals were transmitted at a very low frequency. Originally, the trail was made so crews could access the cliff top at the height of the valley and took the form of a wooden ladder spiked into the cliff, but was replaced in the 1950s with metal steps and ramps. There are apparently 3,922 steps in all, but who can count that many when ascending 850 metres up a cliff? The Haiku Ladder trail, communication station and the view became a popular draw for tourists and hikers, but closed to the public in 1987. The metal stairs were repaired in 2003, as they are still in use for access to the radio communication station, but the structure is still off limits to the public, and the local community and government has concerns about reopening the trail to hikers, the latter citing liability concerns. People are still hiking this trail though and successfully bypassing the guard at the base of the trail (he is there to stop people climbing without authorisation) to reach the peak so they can watch the sunrise, as this is one of the prettier views. There does seem to be respect for this trail and a genuine desire to have it kept accessible in some way. Hiking forums contain information about how to access the Haiku Ladder and often urge people to keep quiet so as not to bother local residents and to take their litter with them to keep the trail clean and less likely to attract complaints.

It is possible to do this hike without trespassing and that is by volunteering with Friends of Haiku Stairs, a charitable organisation based on Oahu that regularly cleans and maintains the trail. They are campaigning to have the trail reopened for public use. According to them, between 100 and 150 climbers a week access the stair trail during good weather. The Friends of Haiku Stairs campaign for the legal reopening of the ladder trail, arguing against concerns that reopening the stairs to the public will result in more disruption to residents, more liability claims from injuries and more cost to the council. They state that the city is already liable for injuries sustained by climbers, and that there were very few rescue calls made due to the stairs being climbed. They argue that if the trail was open to the public, people could climb during daylight, meaning less risk of injury or of getting lost and better education from the official management of the trail would give people the knowledge they need not to endanger themselves. The opening of the stairs would also mean no need for the costly (and seemingly ineffective) security guards and could even bring in revenue for the city through admission charges and increased tourism. The impact to local residents would also be lessened, as hikers would not need to go through the streets at odd hours and could park closer to the trail head or even in a dedicated car park, leaving the nearby residential areas alone. For now though, the ladder trail remains closed to the public, so you'll either have to be brave and quiet to enjoy the challenge or support the Friends of Haiku Stairs in their efforts.