“Surprisingly, the economy has helped us,” Joseph said. “I knew from the day I got into this business, I would enjoy it.”
That day was about 30 years ago, when Joseph and a business partner opened a small used bookstore in Anaheim. But getting to that point is a tale of worldly travels and professional tribulations that started in the Midwest as tensions between North and South Koreans raged.
Born in 1928 in Wood River, Ill., a small town famous for its role as the starting point of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Joseph had delusions of grandeur from an early age.
He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis and moved to Missouri in his early 20s where he practiced law before joining the Army at the outbreak of the Korean War.
Joseph was stationed as a typist above the 38th Parallel, in modern-day North Korea, where he developed a taste for international travel that would soon shape his familial life.
In 1966, he rented a car and drove through Japan, a country he first visited more than 15 years before on his way to Korea.
While visiting Sendai, Japan, a small tree-lined community more than 360 miles north of Kyoto, Joseph met the son of a wealthy Japanese businessman with whom he would quickly strike up a relationship that has since lasted more than 40 years.
The son, Noriaki Nakano, was one of the only English-speaking residents in the town and helped guide Joseph and his traveling companion around the community. While touring, Nakano told Joseph of his desire to live in America.
“I said, finish school first, and we’ll talk,” said Joseph, who, upon his return to the U.S., moved to Southern California to help open his first bookstore in Anaheim.
Joseph languished in the store — weighed down by his relative inexperience and severe lack of funds that complicated day-to-day spending.