Hirakata (枚方市 Hirakata-shi?) is a small city in northwestern Osaka Prefecture. It is notable for its crysanthemum festival and for being close to three major Kansai cities, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. It is also home to Hirakata park, a minor (but well advertised on the Keihan line) amusement park in the Osaka area.
The Keihan (京阪 Keihan?) railway which connects Osaka to Kyoto (hence the name, which takes its first kanji from the name of Kyoto and its second from the second one in Osaka. One of the major advantages of living in or around Hirakata is its easy access to these cities and Nara. The Keihan Main Line links up in various places to JR and other private railways and so one can travel well out of the Kyoto/Osaka area via the train. The major stops in the area are Hirakata station and Kuzuha station, with smaller stops (Makino, Gotenyama, Hirakata and Kozenji) in between. There is also a Keihan department store near the Hirakata and Kuzuha stops. Hirakatashi and Kuzuha Stations are the only ones visited by the Limited Express (red) train en route from Kyobashi in Osaka City to Kyoto.
A connection to the Eizan Railway Main Line can be made at the Keihan terminus, Demachiyanagi.
A connection to the Kyoto Municipal Subway Tōzai Line can be made at Sanjo.
A direct connection is not possible, but Kawaramachi Station on Hankyu's Kyoto line is within 5 minutes' walk of Gion-Shijō.
A connection to the JR Nara line is made at Tofukuji. This train runs from JR Kyoto Station to Nara.
A connection to the Kintetsu Kyoto line is made at Tambabashi. Transferring here is the fastest method to arrive at JR Kyoto from Hirakata. The Kintetsu Line also runs to Nara, and using the Limited Express (500 yen extra, ticket available at the machines in Tambabashi Station) will arrive there in half an hour.
A connection to the Keihan Uji Line can be made at Chujoshima.
A connection to the Otokoyama Cable Line is possible at Yawatashi.
The Keihan Katano Line, running perpendicular to the Keihan Main Line, begins at Hirakatashi.
A connection to the Osaka Monorail (access to Itami Airport) is possible at Kadoma-shi.
The major JR connection station is Kyobashi, with access to the Gakkentoshi, Tozai, Yamatoji, as well as the Loop Line.
Connections to the Osaka Municipal Subway can be made at Noe-Uchindai Station (Tanimachi Line) Kyobashi (Nagahori-Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Line), Temmabashi (Tanimachi Line), Kitahama (Sakaisuji Line) and the Osaka terminus, Yodoyabashi (Midosuji Line).
Connections to the Keihan Nakanoshima Line are made at Kyobashi, and Temmabashi. Kitahama station is closeby to the Nakanoshima's Naniwabashi Statiob, while Yodoyabashi is within 5 minutes walk of the Nakanoshima's Oebashi Station.
Semi-Express (green) trains run from Kuzuha to Temmabashi before changing course and running along the Nakanoshima Line. Similarly, Commuter Sub Express (purple) trains run from Demachiyanagi to Temmabashi before changing.
Two special Commuter Rapid Express (blue) trains run between Katanoshi on the Katano Line and Hirakatashi before changing course and going to Yodoyabashi in Osaka. These trains are known as "Orihime" and "Hikoboshi" (names taken from the Tanabata legend - Katano City is famous for its Tanabata Festival) and run in the early morning and late afternoon to service commuters going from Katano to Osaka without having to change lines. They look like Keihan Main Line trains, not Katano Line trains, so if you plan to go to Kyoto be sure not to board one of these by accident. They are identifiable by the round pink (Orihime) or blue (Hikoboshi) on the front of the train; Hikoboshi will also display "Katanoshi" on its destination sign. As in the Tanabata legend of lovers being unable to meet, the two trains run in opposite directions and pass each other by.
All other trains will run between the main terminuses Demachiyanagi and Yodoyabashi unless otherwise specified on the train's sign.
Kansai Gaidai Edit
Kansai Gaidai is a foreign language university (about rank D on Japanese ratings) with a campus in Hirakata. It makes a big impression on the otherwise (largely) sleepy town because of the vast number of students that come through the city; either Japanese students coming in for classes (making early morning and afternoon buses a bit crowded) and the 500 or so international students (from countries like the U.S., England, Northern Europe, Australia, Morocco and Turkey) who spend one or two semesters living in Hirakata and attending the school to study Japanese.
Often, the Japanese students especially, will be more fluent in English than usual and so may be a large help, but that doesn't mean most people in the city are.
Hirakata has one big mall near Hirakata Train station, Aeon (formerly known as Saty). A wide variety of men (particularly young men) and women's clothing, groceries, and even toys are available at the mall. Near Hirakata station is also a really good 100 yen shop named Seria. It is in the basement of the six-floor Take Two building (visible on the opposite side of the station from the fountain) and the complex also has a number of good restaurants, and a cheap karaoke/amusement centre called Ring on the 6th floor.
In the Hirakata station building is also a Kiddy Land, which sells character goods for everything from Dragon Quest to Totoro and is a good place to get omiyage for friends and family. Near the Kansai Gaidai dorms (closer to Makino station) there is also a discount clothing store, Avail, that has a wide variety of men and women's clothing. The closest major shopping area is Kuzuha Mall at Kuzuha Station (still within Hirakata, but the last stretch of land before entering Kyoto Prefecture), a large mall containing several major multi-department stores like Muji, Loft and Izumiya, the Keihan department store, brand clothing, a grocery store, several bakeries, a sizable food court and a Gourmet Street with plenty of restaurant choices, many other shops and an additional building containing a Uniqlo, a LUSH, fabric/sewing supplies, a dog walking park, a cafe, an arcade and a number of boutiques.
For large purchases (like electronics) and omiyage the best options are in Osaka and Kyoto, though there is a K's Electronics store down the street from Kansai Gaidai's front gate which often has good deals on computer peripherals and electronic dictionaries. There is also a Joshin fairly close to Kuzuha Station, and another on Route 1, within walking distance of Kansai Gaidai if one knows their way around.
As a small city Hirakata has a number of small family owned resturants. Especially good are the small takoyaki and okonomiyaki stands scattered throughout. Plenty of chain restaurants are also available, with the McDonalds in Hirakata numbering more than 10, 2 Saizeriyas, and many other chain/fast food outlets like Mos Burger, CoCo's, Yoshinoya and the like. Especially popular among the foreign students is Torikizoku, an izakaya that sells everything on the menu (including drinks) for 295 yen. It can be found in the same building as 100 yen shop Seria.
There are also a number of higher scale resturants, many of which are near Hirakata and Kuzuha stations.