Just before Kumamoto Castle was set to open on a recent Saturday morning, a pack of serious-faced samurai walked up like they owned the place. They went through a side door and then opened the Hohoate Gomon gate to welcome the crowd with a hearty, "Ohayou gozaimasu!" Not so serious after all. It's a great way to start a visit to one of Japan's most impressive castles.
The castle is open 8:30-5:30 in April-October, and 8:30-4:30 in November-March.