After Expoland it was off to yet another park. Boy are we nailing them on this trip! Hirakata is located in the north of Osaka and became popular as a hunting ground of nobles and aristocrats during the Heian period (795 - 1192AD). Following WWII there was a quick increase in the population here and in recent years the city has changed once again becoming a University Town. Hirakata currently has six different universities. The park itself has been around for 70 years.

Like DisneySea in Tokyo, the centre piece to the park is a volcano, which erupts at the end of each day, triggering a firework display. Unlike Disneysea it isn't located in the centre of the park but immediately beyond the entrance.

The willow is the "city tree" of Hirakata but the palms here in "Palm Walk" (their take on Main Street) didn't look too out of place either. This bit of the park had a look like Universal Studios to it. The buildings either side housed the majority of the shops and restaurants within the park, and yes that includes the McDonalds. At one end of the street is a ball-shooting dodgems attraction and another one of those shoot to win a stuffed animal games. As with all the similar attractions of this type I'd failed to score enough points to win the prize.

The first coaster of the day was the stupidly named "Fantastic Coaster Rowdy". Here's a good picture showing the kana for entrance and exit. Having it in English made it sure the non-speakers in the group took the right path (pun intended) to enter the station.

The coaster was best described as quirky. It wasn't fantastic or rowdy but just alright. Situated opposite the ride was a much better attraction. Each person is put inside a sarcophagus and the aim is to see at what point you get scared. You have to hold some metal bars and looking into a small window. If the darkness doesn't get you, the scary sounds played into the tomb might. If the sound doesn't then the electric current run through the metal bars might. If that doesn't then the simulated scorpion sting on the back of the hand should probably do it (You get to watch it crawl past the window before it attacks). Certainly different!

The park was built on a hill and sensibly the big wheel was located at it's summit. The coaster we'd just written was at the bottom. This meant the day was going to be spent ascending and descending the hill. Rather weirdly there wasn't an automated means to get up the hill, which meant that the unfit members of the group would have to undergo some physical exertion to enjoy the park fully.

The park had it's own version of Daidasaurus i.e. a coaster that covers a significant amount of the footprint. Theirs is called Red Falcon. Again the drops weren't exactly steep making it look like a water splash ride more than a coaster.

A lot of the kiddy rides also exist at the bottom of the hill, whilst we didn't bother with the majority of them (there's only so many times you can go round on an elephant and still enjoy it) there was one that stood out and attracted us.

How could you not resist an animatronic animal brass band inviting you into the ride? The ride itself was just a standard "Small World" style dark ride but it was quite cute and fun to ride, although the ride operator couldn't believe us going in there.

In 1947, Hirakata became Osaka's 12th city with a population of over 40,000. They must have been elsewhere on the day we were in town, as once again the park was empty compared to what I'm used to. The drop tower would offer us views of the park in a quicker way than the wheel would.

There wasn't even enough people to fill the wave swinger. It would have been a very slow day had they implemented a policy of only running the rides when they were full. Fortunately common sense prevailed and they wouldn't keep people waiting too long.

Final Frost was a rather strange attraction unique to Japan from what I can tell. It's just a refrigerated walkthrough that offers the perfect respite from a hot day. Why other parks don't do the same thing I have no idea, its such common sense to have this kind of attraction. Needless to say we gave it a go and really enjoyed it, not because there was much to do in there other than walk around freezing cold, but just because it was different. The ride op, (or is that fridge op) enjoyed the fact that we had gone in. With the weather as overcast as it was it wasn't popular on the day.

Onto Red Falcon and wow, there was a queue. We couldn't complain at having to wait around as we'd been extremely fortunate on the trip so far. The ride itself was OK but without the steep drops that we're used to, it wasn't that exciting.

At 4,000 metres in length there was plenty of track to go around. Fortunately not as long as Daida, which is twice as long but still longer than most rides I'd experienced.

There was no reason however why the coaster needed over the shoulder restraints as it was very gentle in nature.

Coaster number 3 was the commonly named "Crazy Mouse". This one was crazy however in that unlike every other Crazy Mouse on the planet this one had it's spinning assembly turned off. The ride as a result was just plain odd, just when you get ready to have it rotate it doesn't bother. I have no reason as to why they run it in this manner. Perhaps they don't know about the switch on the car that will make them spin.

It was also the first mouse coaster that I recall that has steps to the station, usually these things are accessed at ground level. I suspect this is probably because the ride has to be elevated to fit the hillside on which its built.

Underneath the mouse coaster is also this strange game, the closest we have in the UK is perhaps the Crystal Maze thing near Oakwood in Wales. On the way in you're given an egg, either red, blue, yellow or green in colour and you charge it up before entering the main enclosure. Consisting of a huge themed maze you have to search for portals to give further charge to the egg. The faster the egg is fully charged the better the animal that will be hatched from it. Although you don't actually get to see that, it's detailed on the certificate you're given on the way out. As it turned out I did quite well in this game, mostly because I had a young Japanese kid acting as a guide dragging me around the maze to the red portals.

The has two kiddy coasters. This is the first one Peekaboo Town the newest addition to the park and very tame in nature. It was quite a stuggle getting into the cars however due to the lack of leg room and the ride not being designed to cater a fully grown adult. Adopting a cross legged pose I was able to get my go on this.

The other kiddy coaster is E.L.F. which is short for the "Episode of Little Fairies". You're probably thinking "that doesn't look like a kiddy coaster" and you'd be right but it's how the park have marketed it.

Making the way up the hill towards the wheel I passed the main stage built ithe style of an ampitheatre. Why bother installing arena seating when you can use the natural geography to give you the seating pattern that allows everyone to see the stage perfectly.

I thought this was quite a nice touch. When the theatre isn't in use the performers are responsible for the maintenance of the venue. They were all out groundskeeping and giving the place a polish.

A picture taken from the wheel overlooking the park and its hard to believe that all the white track belongs to the same ride. The orange coaster in the foreground is the crrrrrrrrazy mouse.

This is the park's log flume, unique in that it features a lap strap. I can only assume the drop on this was steeper than the coasters hence the need for some sort of safety system. Completely pointless of course.

The Crazy Mouse running nicely beneath the Red Falcon lift hill. The mouse coaster is one of the most common in the world and became rapidly popular following the debut of the first one in Dinosaur Beach in New Jersey.

Here's the clearly obvious looking children's coaster ELF and this looked really impressive. It's actually located near the top of the hill on a slightly different side of the hill to the majority of the park.

Looking down towards the bottom of the hill at the Fantastic Coaster Rowdy ride and the Palm Walk.
From ground level, ELF seemed to be hidden within plenty of trees but from high up the trees don't appear to be that abundant.

A better view overlooking the park and you can see the extent that Red Falcon runs to surrounding a significant number of rides within the park. It's from up here that you realise that the park isn't actually that big.

ELF was proving to be tricky to photograph from the wheel because it was running with quite a bit of speed behind it, unlike Red Falcon which was much slower. It was going to be a good coaster to finish the day on.

Looking down at Peekaboo Town. The final straight on the left featured a kiddy coaster equivalent of air time hills with little bumps that shook you up and down. Great if you're a kid, not so great if riding it in some extreme yoga pose that the adults were having to use to get in.

Having taken my pics on the wheel it was off to give that wooden coaster a go. Fortunately there were plenty of signs pointing the way. The first two characters on the top row read "wood made" with the characters after them reading "ko o su ta a" or "coaster" (the hyphen means extend the sound of the previous character). The main characters read "e ru fu" or "elf" although the Japanese don't distinguish between the "l" and "r" sounds.

Well the kiddy coaster ELF has a height restriction of 1.1 metres so it really is a kiddy coaster. Madness! I thought the mouse was crazy but this was something else.

The ELF track looked quite superb, alas I was unable to get any good ones with the car on it because I was on it at the time and they were only running a single train. Ah well. You can't have everything.

As with Aska at Nara Dreamland you could get to the centre of the ride for some further picture taking opportunity. I was feeling quite confident taking my camera onto the ride, but that's only because it was a children's coaster and it wasn't going to be that bad.

As it turns out, the ride was a lot of fun and easily the best ride in the park. Can you tell the American enthusiasts from the locals? A clue, there are four of them in this picture.

Our time at the park was coming to an end so I made my way out of the park. As you can see this side of the park was dead, with no one in sight whatsoever, but then there weren't any attractions down here.

There were however some raccoons. In an attempt to appeal to kiddies there were some animal enclosures down this side of the hill. We're not taking major species like elephants or monkeys, we'd have to go elsewhere for that. The animals seemed happy enough however.

The last picture of the day is of the rapids ride which seemed to be pretty popular with the locals riding it. I couldn't be bothered going on it however, plus I didn't really have the time.

Hirakata wasn't a bad park really but being aimed at families isn't likely to get any major thrill rides that would give me a reason to visit if I wasn't on a trip. ELF was the best ride there by a long long way.


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