Peter A Goldsbury
Yes, I was there at the meeting. Of course, there has been a Japanese shihan in France since many years before that meeting in Sweden: Nobuyoshi Tamura. However, at the time there was a major split among the Japanese shihan group between N Tamura and the rest. M Fujita was playing the role of 'honest broker'. The other Japanese refused to participate in the demonstration organized by the Swedish federation, so Fujita Sensei was the only one: I was his uke.
I was also there, being one of the Swedish organizers. Actually, Iwamoto sensei also made a demonstration. I think he was shihan of Austrian aikido at the time. A wonderful man.
I don't remember exactly what the other Japanese shihans' boycot was about, but it probably had something to do with the fact that we in Sweden declined the offer from Asai sensei to become the new shihan of Sweden after Ichimura sensei had returned to Japan.
Regarding western shihan, I am quite convinced that they are still appointed, although rarely. Just a couple of years ago, Sweden got its second shihan, Ulf Evenås. Our first one was Jan Hermansson, appointed the same year as the first bunch of westerners were officially appointed shihan by the Aikikai Hombu.
Christian Tissier is one of those, as well, and from that moment on he is most definitely regarded as a proper shihan, also by the Hombu.
As far as I understand, a Hombu recognized organization can apply for one of its members to become shihan, if that person is 6 dan since at least 6 years of continued aikido activity. Hombu decides, and the decision is made public at their Kagamibiraki celebration (just like with the grades 5 dan and up). There is a diploma, which is not very elegant in style...
The Hombu expects a shihan to examine and recommend people for dan grades. If that is within his or her organization, no problem. If it is elsewhere, the shihan has to make special arrangements with the Hombu. Still, the Hombu puts great trust in the competence of its shihans, also when it comes to dan gradings.