Fortress Island in Tokyo Bay

Once built as an island fortress for Tokyo in the 19th century, Odaiba is a popular shopping and entertainment destination in the 21st century.  My first visit to this man-made island was to see the newly opened World of Coca-Cola Tokyo in the AQUA CiTY Mediage.  The large retail store on the 6th floor was filled with hundreds of Coca-Cola licensed merchandise guarded by a 10-foot tall Polar Bear with a bottle of Coke.  Visitors can also order refreshments from the bar while shopping or enjoying the view of the Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay.

During my last trip to Tokyo, I made my pilgrimage back to Odaiba to pick up some limited edition Coke bottles.  The World of Coca-Cola has since closed and moved to a smaller location inside AQUA CiTY mall on the 3rd floor.  Across from the mall was the 12th Hilton property in Japan which opened in 2015.  Before taking the Yurikamome back to Shinjuku, I stopped by the Hilton Tokyo Odaiba and asked for an envelope.

Since I had to transfer in Shimbashi for JR back to Shinjuku, I picked up the Shimbashi eki stamp for the Hilton envelope and affixed a crested ibis and Japanese primrose which I picked up the day before.  It didn't take long before I found a pair of large red mailbox outside the station for me to send my third Hilton cover back home.

P.S. My previous Hilton cover had Shinjuku postmarks that complemented the Shinjuku eki stamp.  However, the cover I mailed outside Shimbashi eki ended up with a Ginza postmark.  I checked Google Map and the nearby Ginza post office appears to be a larger post office than the Shinbashi post office.

Shinjuku Eki Stamp

As noted in the Hilton Centennial post, my first Hilton hotel cover was mailed in Los Angeles.  My next Hilton cover was mailed in Shinjuku.  Since I had more time in Tokyo, I wanted to decorate my Hilton envelope with something local and interesting.

Just two blocks away from the Shinjuku Hilton was the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building.  I took the elevator to the observation deck on the 45th floor on a cloudy and rainy day but I was even more disappointed that the souvenir rubber stamps were well used and couldn't create a good impression on paper.

So I headed to the Shinjuku train station to look for the Eki Stamp.  Inside the JR Ticket Office (Midori no Madoguchi) by the South Exit, I found the Shinjuku Eki Stamp which featured the old Shinjuku Depot and according to the poster on the wall behind the self-service rubber stamp and ink pad, there were 77 different JR Station Stamp designs in Tokyo.

Although the Shinjuku Post Office is open 9-9 everyday, by the time I got there, it had already closed.   I ambled back to the Hilton and was able to get a nice assortment of postage stamps from the concierge at face value,   unlike the the gift shop at Hilton LAX wanted a hefty mark-up.

Airmail rate from Japan to USA for standard-sized letters was 110 Yen for up to 25 grams.   I licked two snow monkeys, two crested ibises, two kitakitsune (ezo red foxes) and one sika deer to make up the 110 Yen rate.

When I returned home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my Hilton corner card adorned with an emerald eki stamp received 3 neatly placed postmarks by hand as well as an azul AIR MAIL hand stamp.

Coincidentally, the Tokyo cover and the LAX cover both had the same postmark date.

P.S. Although the Shinjuku Post Office at 1-8-8 Nishi-Shinjuku is open 9am-9pm every day, the commemorative stamp vending counter is open 9am-7pm Monday-Friday, 11am-4pm Saturday, Sunday and Holidays. Shinjuku Post Office is only a 5-minute walk from the West Exit of the Shinjuku Station.

Hilton Centennial

Years ago I used to send picture postcards home to friends and family wherever I travel.  Then I started sending ones to myself as mementos.

Last year I had an overnight layover in LAX so I asked for an hotel envelope from the Hilton Los Angeles Airport.  I stuffed it with my recently expired boarding pass and affixed a forever stamp with the flag design that I bought from a self-service vending kiosk at the USPS office on Airport Blvd.  Then I snapped a photo of the cover with the stone lion in front of the Hilton and dropped it off in the mail slot in the lobby.

That was the first hotel cover which I mailed to myself.  The first Hilton cover as well.

Speaking of Hilton, Conrad the founder bought and operated his first property in Cisco, Texas in 1919.  A legendary figure in the industry, Hilton had built one of the largest hotel empires in the 20th century. After nearly sixty years of developing hotels around the world, Conrad died at the age of 91 in 1979.

Although the first hotel to bear the Hilton name is the Dallas Hilton which opened in 1925, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is celebrating its centennial in 2019.  Today the hospitality group boasts over 5800 properties under 17 brands in over 114 countries.  About 10% of the properties operate under the Hilton brand.

As it turned out, there had been several postage stamps issued to commemorate the grand opening of various Hilton Hotels.  Being an Hilton Honors member and a stamp collector, I started collecting Hilton Hotel stamps, postcards and covers last year with the Hilton LAX cover.  Check out my latest finds and postings in the Hilton Hotel Philately blog.

P.S. Any postal administrations issuing an Hilton Centennial postage stamp or commemorative cover?

Cactus Flowers in Mesa Arizona

What do Santa Claus and cactus flowers have in common?

They are both recently featured on USPS Forever stamps.  The Santa stamps were issued in October 2018 and the cactus flower stamps were issued in February 2019.

As I mentioned in Sparkling Holidays Coca-Cola Bottling Cachet, I created my first day cover with the Santa stamp.  This weekend, I brought one of the bottling cachets to Mesa, Arizona to make it a double with the official first day of issue cancellations for both the sparkling holiday and cactus flower stamps.  My first dual-cancelled first day cachet.

The first day of issue ceremony for the cactus stamps was held on February 15, 2019 at the Mesa Convention Center, in conjunction with the AmeriStamp Expo (ASE), which was by the way the last winter convention of the American Philatelic Society (APS).

Just as I have created the Sparkling Holiday cachet to celebrate my 25th year of collecting Coca-Cola in 2019, I came to Mesa to receive my 25-Year APS Member pin during the convention general meeting.  It was great to see so many philatelists including: Dr. Cheryl Ganz, former chief curator at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and current APS Board Vice President; Kristin Patterson, American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) Trustee, and chair of PENPEX stamp show; and Trish Kaufmann, former President of Confederate Stamp Alliance (CSA) and current APS Board Vice President and 50-year APS member!

P.S. Now that I have reached my 25-Year APS milestone, I look forward to the next milestone - 50-Year medallion.

Sparkling Holidays Coca-Cola Bottle Cachet

Here's my first attempt in creating a personal memento by concocting ingredients from two of my favorite pastimes: philately and Coca-Cola® bottle collecting.

Step 1. Order Sparkling Holidays souvenir sheet

On October 11, 2018, the United States Postal Service (USPS) released a set of four Sparkling Holidays stamps and one souvenir sheet featuring the Coca-Cola Santa Claus created by Haddon Sundblom.

The stamps with four different Santas come in booklets of 20 and are available in post offices.  The 5th Santa design is the souvenir sheet and is only sold online or by phone order. The souvenir sheet features the 1963 Santa standing by the fireplace.  Above the fireplace is a bottle of Coca-Cola on the mantel.  The stamp in the souvenir sheet is also larger in size than the other four Santa stamps.

I placed an order online and received my souvenir sheets in 4 days.

Step 2.  Create the Santa bottle cachet

I have never created a cachet before and I am not much of an artist either.  I looked around in my collection of Coke bottles and picked out two for my project.   One was the 75th Anniversary of the Sundblom Santa from 2006.  The other was an ornament-shaped Santa bottle that was the holiday edition of the Coke Side of Life campaign from 2008. I took pictures of both bottles with my iPhone.

I transferred the bottle photos to my MacBook Air and used Preview to crop the images.  I got an online coupon for Vistaprint and created a simple design with the contour bottle in the front and the round bottle in the back.   I placed an order online with my design and the envelopes arrived in just 3 days.

Step 3. Assemble the cachet with souvenir sheet

Once I had my cachets and souvenir sheets in hand, I affixed the souvenir sheet to the cachet.  I wanted the entire souvenir sheet on the envelope.  It was not easy to peel off the entire self-adhesive sheet off the backing.  I had to remove the stamp first then carefully the rest of the sheet without tearing it.

Step 4. Add First Day of Issue cancellation

I mailed the completed cachets with self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) to USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services to have the First Day of Issue (FDOI) postmark applied.  Due to either the popularity of these Sparkling Holidays issues or the holiday season, my unofficial First Day Covers (FDC) took nearly 30 days before they were returned to me.

Step 5. Enjoy with a bottle of Coca-Cola!

Now I have created my first Bottling Cachet featuring the 75th Anniversary Sundblom Santa Coca-Cola bottle and the first ever philatelic issue depicting a Coca-Cola bottle from the USPS with the official pictorial First Day of Issue cancellation.

An original cachet just in time to ring in the new year and celebrate my 25th year of collecting Coca-Cola in 2019.

P.S. philatelically speaking, have you created a memento to celebrate an occasion or commemorate an event?