The major events of the day started around 1:00 p.m. when we took the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from the main Tokyo train station to Ichinoseki, a small Japanese city around 250 miles (400km) to the north. For me, this was a thrill as I have always been a train fan and this ride allowed me to experience the efficiency of Japanese high speed rail and see considerable sections of the Japanese countryside. Top speed was around 160 mph (260 km/h), but there was no sensation of this except when we passed another Shinkansen travelling in the opposite direction. With a combined speed of over 300mph (500 km/h), a ten car train would rip past in less than 3 seconds.
We arrived in Ichinoseki in around 2.5 hours. This is a small city of around 100,000 people and home to the "Basie" jazz bar - our primary destination. "Basie" is pretty much universally known to Japanese jazz fans. It is run by jazz drummer Shoji Sugawari; better known to his fans as Swifty. As the name of his establishment implies, Swifty is a huge fan of Count Basie and had the opportunity to play with his band on a number of occaisions. Visiting jazz musicians often make the pilgrimage to Basie when they have the chance to visit Japan. Winton Marsalis and Elvin Jones are just two famous musicians that make a point of visiting Swifty at his club when they are in Japan.