I think it's also about how well you fare in comparison to your peers. You can be surrounded by mediocre shodan and be a 1st kyu that blows them all out of the water, but you don't have enough hours and that would be the only difference. That's why I think it's important also to go to seminars and see where you are at your training on a larger scale than it is to go by the black and white of hours.
How would you tell if the 1st dan's are mediocre and the 1st kyu blows them out of the water? What would be the criteria for judgment?