I get where you are coming from bunkai is definitely there, However. (you knew the however was coming)
This is where I have a little issue when you cross the threshold from principle training with proper posture alignment and center, to reality or sport.
This side of me says that bunkai is useless. Here is what I mean.
Pragmatically either you are practicing it and know you are practicing it or you are not.
This is really the core concerning aliveness. I am not saying that practicing randori, tai sabaki, or other things as we practice them in aikido is wrong. Frankly I am an advocate for practicing in this manner as it helps ensure and reinforce correct things. Whereas a weakness of training in an aliveness manner all the time can be difficult to learn or unlearn bad things.
However, in my experiences you will never learn how to adequately be proficient against non-compliance unless you practice it in this manner.
We can look to the bunkai (hidden techniques) all we want, but why waste time hiding techniques, other than to isolate out particular aspects that you want to reinforce or unlearn?
At some point, you must practice against real takedown attempts, as you did with your judo and BJJ buddies.
As you know, you probably found you did better than you thought you'd do with your aikido training just doing the things you learned in aikido.
However, if we want to become BETTER at these things or expand our abilities and versatility then why not practice against these things, and THEN carry it to the next level of transition. This is aliveness.
Anyway, I do agree with the bunkai being there in all aikido technique if practiced principally correct. I have had fun learning exactly what you say in the last couple of years through aliveness. Finding what can be interpreted principally, and learning how to free up that "bunkai" in my training!
For instance, I have found the clinch to be similar to irimi and ikkyu in principle. Bunkai is there....it is just up to you to apply the concept of aliveness to unlock it!
I think this has been what many of us that have cross trained and synthesized between BJJ and aikido.
Thanks for sharing that with me..made me think!