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> On Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 2:53 PM, Lars Finsen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> > Having just watched a film about the great Hokusai, it strikes me that his
> > name is pronounced something like /hoksai/. No trace of the middle vowel
> > there to be heard, not even the slightest remnant of a schwa. Is this
> > phenomenon prevalent in other Japanese words, and do we have any information
> > of the histories of such vowels? I believe I have heard something similar
> > happening with final vowels in words like wakarimasu. Is it always the u?
> > U's in other positions, like Ueda or Sugimori, seem to survive.
> >


As a partially-fluent Japanese speaker, here's the rule of thumb I've always gone by.  The vowels "i" and "u" are diminished (or sometimes dropped entirely) if they occur between voiceless consonants (i.e. "Hokusai"), or at the end of a word when they follow a voiceless consonant ("wakarimasu").
 		 	   		  
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