Jørgen Jakob Friis
well.. just looking at the list of teachers at the hombu dojo I can see two 6th dans that are not titled shihan (http://www.aikikai.or.jp/eng/hombu/instructor.htm)
.. so it's not AUTOMATICALLY given to anyone who reaches 6th dan. I know of a few other examples as well.
The main influence in Denmark right now is our annual visit from Arisou sensei. He's a 7th dan and - at least to my knowledge - he has never been given the title of Shihan. In my book it dosen't matter. He's a great guy and I can certainly learn a lot from him.
So.. I don't see it as so much of a problem - maybe because I'm not in any imminent danger of becomming a 6th dan any time soon anyway. I guess if I had friends being 'held back' for no other reason than being non-japanese I would also be annoyed, but I know of no such cases. In my book being 6th dan and being sour for not getting Shihan is a puzzle. At that level I would expect an aikidoist to be less driven by the titles and grades than by the pleasure of doing aikido.
In my point of view it's more of a shame when people start their own styles and liniage in order to hand out titles and dan-levels to themselves. It seems so vain and full-of-yourself-ish, and cutting corners is just not very 'aiki' if you ask me.
If you want to start you own thing then by all means - but why then adopt the japanese system of kyu/dan and certifications and titles anyway?
So.. I guess we just have to agree to disagree. I see it of far less of a problem, and I don't perceive the relationship between aikidoists around the world and aikikai as a business relation. It's just how the world is. Sure there are probably misunderstandings and favourism some places in our world-organisation. This happens everywhere. The good thing is that I believe it is being less of a problem with each generation.
This is kind of what I was trying to say as well. In Japan, where the aikikai people know everybody at least indirectly or by reputation, the title is awarded by means of an informal process. Outside of Japan, the aikikai decided that they needed to formalize the process.
Of course they could change the meaning to be synonymous with "6 dan", but then it devalues it for the people who are already using it legitimately, which is insulting to them. Even in Japan, 6 dan does not equal shihan - you have to be a professional teacher running your own dojo according to the article referenced by OP, and, as with any informal process, there are probably other subtle criteria which apply as well. From my understanding of Japanese culture, there are usually a lot of unwritten rules for how things are done - rules which would not make sense or apply taken out of context.
Agree to disagree indeed, but I would add that looking for fairness in all situations usually leads to disappointment.