What is the difference between 一流 and 五つ星 in the context of hotel classification?

They both mean "5-Star" or "Luxury" but is there a subtle nuance that differentiates them for native Japanese speakers?

  • Might be worth it to throw 高級 in there
    – ssb
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:07

1 Answer 1


As in English, 5つ星 gives a feeling of a more objective assessment (as in awarded by an independent and normalized entity), while 一流 is as subjective as "high-end" can be. Said otherwise, 5つ星 sounds more "it is said that / TV or magazine / everybody around me said that it is that good", while 一流 sounds more "I think / feel / had the experience that it is that good".

As for the stars though, I'm no expert but there are several (private) entities delivering stars on their own criteria, and it seems everything called "5-star" hasn't necessarily been awarded them by one such entity...

As a general rule though, only the very best hotels are likely to be referred to as 5つ星, while pretty much anything could be referred to as 一流, especially 一流 is also more likely to be used by the institution itself.

  • Reads good actually until the very last part which is incorrect. Referring oneself as 一流 would be the most un-Japanese thing to do. If you do it, you are never 一流 by the Japanese standards.
    – user4032
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:06
  • hum, I see your point @TokyoNagoya , but I could easily picture some OK place (be it a small restaurant or 民宿) advertise itself doing so. Of course in a non-direct way, as in 一流の〇〇を体験してみませんか. Just like this. Found a bunch of others too... Of course nothing to do with for example the american way, sure. Any way my point was: 一流 can even be fishy, 5つ星 not.
    – desseim
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 0:20

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