Why do you need a level playing field? Only if you are playing something competitive that requires even starting conditions (which is where the expression comes from). Is the North American (or European, or African, etc.) teacher competing for students? Seminar invitations? Youtube hits?
I just don't see why it is so important that the process inside Japan and the process outside Japan have to be exactly the same (and "fair").
If we apply the same principles, then it shouldn't take so long to get a black belt outside of Japan. It took me 6 years to get to shodan in North America. In Japan, I've heard that it can be done in two! It doesn't matter to me, it's just different, that's all. In fact, internationally, a North American rank might be more highly respected than a Japanese person's because people know that the standards are applied differently. Same title, different application, different meaning. Thank Yamada Sensei I suppose!
I think we agree that the intrinsic benefits of training, testing, teaching, or running a dojo are more valuable than the external recognition that may or may not be bestowed. Still, I see your point that if you have an ambition to receive the title and deserve it, but are unfairly denied, it would be frustrating and perhaps discriminatory. I just don't see evidence that this is what is going on.
Do you think that there should be one set of rules for the Japanese and another set of rules for others?I believe in a system which has equal rights for all.Regarding a Japanese student getting a shodan in two years,while you took six, does this imply the Japanese person is somehow superior to you and other non Japanese?This is a nonsense.In my time I have seen people with grades of 1st , right up to 5th Dan holding their respective grades for years [not just one or two ].I have also seen guys being fast tracked, where somebody is promoted very quickly.I think politics, the friends in high places syndrome etc comes into this situation.Aikido i.m.o.mirrors real life.
What I would like to see is a system based on merit , whereby all Aikikai 6th Dans or &th Dans who are not currently Shihan are given the same opportunity to be considered for Shihan perhaps using the method of Shihan application and the testing as laid out by and written on this Forum by Philip Smith? Mr Smith painted a picture which was simple to implement and was clear and concise.