This May, WR Immigration is celebrating the outstanding contributions of our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) partners. Miki Kawashima Matrician is a partner at WR Immigration’s Boston office and a Japanese immigrant from Nara, Japan. Having experienced the immigration process herself, Miki seeks to provide a bridge between the complex, labyrinthian immigration process and her clients, who understandably have so much at stake in their immigration applications. “Education and transparency help build this bridge and create trust,” she says.
The metaphor of a bridge also carries deep meaning for Miki with regard to her multicultural identity as a Japanese American. Although she has spent most of her life in the United States, Miki maintains a deep connection with Japanese culture and traditions. In fact, her love for Japan is a thread woven throughout the many facets of her life. As a child, Miki cultivated a deep appreciated for “Wa,” a Japanese principle emphasizing harmony, cooperation, and interdependence. Wa was instilled in Miki at home and through Japanese cultural experiences in New York City. Years later, Miki chose to deepen her formal knowledge of Japanese culture and history by studying East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University, and by serving as a professional Japanese translator, editor, and language teacher upon graduation. Today as an immigration attorney, it is no surprise that Miki continues to maintain strong ties with Japanese business groups, and enjoys using her fluency to assist immigrants from Japan. Above all, Miki feels the vitality of her Japanese identity and heritage as a mother. “As a mother, I serve as a bridge between American and Japanese culture and history. I have been purposeful in teaching my children the Japanese language and sharing all that I love about Japanese culture and life. Now that my children are older, I can sense that they are deeply grateful to share this connection to Japan.”
Miki’s immigration story is full of compelling insights about Japanese and American culture, motherhood, and the practice of immigration law. We are delighted to share it with you!
More about Miki’s Immigration Story
An New Office in the Empire State Building
Miki immigrated to the United States at the age of 8 when her father, a Japanese businessman, decided to pursue his dream of living in New York City. When his company discussed plans to open a new office there, Kazuhiro leapt at the opportunity. Kazuhiro got his wish and was appointed to manage the company’s new office located inside the majestic Empire State Building, one of the tallest buildings in New York and the world.
Japanese “Wa” Culture Meets the Big Apple
Miki grew up in a traditional Japanese family and was sent to an afterschool academy to master the Japanese language and customs. Homelife and life at Japanese school was infused with the culture of “Wa” – a Japanese principle that stresses harmony over individuality, cooperation over competition, and interdependence over uniqueness. Miki learned to cherish this Japanese ideal, which taught a deep respect for the interdependent contributions of all those around you.
Yet, “Wa” culture didn’t always seem to fit neatly into Miki’s life in the Big Apple. Miki felt a sharp distinction between the “American Way” and “Japanese way” in the various milieus that comprised her upbringing. At American school, for example, Miki was prompted to be outspoken in her opinions. At her Saturday Japanese language school, the opposite was expected of Miki. These varied cultural influences sometimes led to an uncomfortable clash of cultures. At other times, however, these differences allowed Miki to explore varied aspects of her personality with greater freedom. Miki recalls an instance when her mother observed her daughter interacting with some American friends. “In a way, she could barely recognize me. My personality could be much bolder among American friends.”
As a mother, Miki is passionate about imparting many of her Japanese ways, including the language itself, to her children. “One reason why I delayed going to law school initially was that I wanted to be a Japanese mother. We talk a lot about Japanese culture at home, and even though my children have always lived in the United States, I get the sense that they are really starting to understand what it means to be Japanese.” Above all, Miki stresses the role togetherness and unity play in Japanese culture. “My parents and grandparents have always taught me that we only exist thanks to the varied contributions of all those around us. One’s success is made possible only through the support of family, friends, and colleagues. I find great beauty and meaning in this aspect of Japanese culture.”
Law School, Motherhood, and Career
Miki started her family before attending law school, and going back to school while juggling motherhood was not easy. After a full day of class, Miki would meet her children at the bus stop and spend the rest of the day with them, helping with homework and cooking meals. After their bedtime, Miki had to pour herself back into copious reading, note taking, and learning about case studies. Miki frequently took car naps on the Boston College campus! Miki feels fortunate to have had the support of her family during this pursuit. During her first year, her mother helped with the children almost every day, and her husband pitched in with cooking and cleaning.
Miki sensed very early on that she was interested in practicing immigration. She was given the advice to explore other fields of law, but these experiences only confirmed her love for immigration. Miki has built a robust practice focused on managing all aspects of employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant cases for diverse clients, and she enjoys working with Japanese business groups in particular. Miki also enjoys sharing her unique immigration journey with clients and peers, and is passionate about supporting and mentoring mothers in the legal profession. With regard to motherhood and career, Miki believes that women are most powerful when they show up as themselves, authentically and unapologetically. “Being honest about who we are and where we are enables women to make decisions that are right for them and advocate effectively for themselves. It’s so easy to feel like an imposter or aspire to live someone else’s journey, but we are most powerful when we are simply ourselves,” she says.