I have been following this new development with some interest. Especially since learning that apparently, Saito Sensei of the Iwama Ryu style has been doing the same thing with his own Dan rankings and passports. I have wondered if this is not all the beginning of the end and if what little organizational unity that we have enjoyed in Aikido (and the Aikikai in particular) as an art is not about to descend into an abyss of fragmentaion. I suppose it may be inevitable. I cannot see how Shihans within the Aikikai system, creating their own separate rankings will help strengthen the role of Hombu dojo worldwide. While after the death of the founder there were several divisions that ocurred, the trend in recent years had been toward organizational unity rather than fragmentation largely due to the role of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In the short run, the prestige of Hombu Dojo and the Ueshiba family name won out but now, as the individual prestige of certain great teachers is enhanced and we move further in time from the source, the danger again looms that we will descend into a franic cycle of division and fragmentaion. The new Doshu's position as reported by the Birankai is commendable but it may be the only option available to Hombu regardless of their personal opinion of this development.
On the other hand, it is clear that politically, Hombu dojo probably is and has been boxed in with regards to their political will to advance and promote non Japanese to the Shihan level. Also, I know that there has probably been some measure politicizing of Dan rankings within the Aikikai system which is also unescapable in any human system. I suppose we are all doing the best we can. I hope though that Aikido doesn't become like Karate or Kung Fu where you walk into a dojo and you see a number of certificates on the wall written in a foreign language and the lineage and names are so convoluted and obscure, that no one could possibly unravel them or trace them and the recognizable legitimacy of the family name of the founder is lost. That would mean that the unity we have enjoyed worldwide of being identified with the Ueshiba name will be gone forever. That unity is the reason I can go into any Aikikai related dojo in the world and practice with the confidence of a large amount of goodwill in the heart and feel assured that indeed, we are "brothers", regardless of organizational differences (i.e., USAF,AAA,Schools of Ueshiba,etc.) Try doing that at your local karate dojo next time you travel.