A honbasho is an official professional sumo tournament. There are six held each year, a system established in 1958. Only honbasho results matter in determining promotion and relegation for rikishi (sumo wrestlers).
A literal translation of honbasho is “main (or real) tournament”. This term is used to distinguish these tournaments from display basho which are held as part of sumo tours, between the six major tournaments. Such display tournaments may have prize money attached but a wrestler’s performance has no effect on his ranking. This type of sumo is often called hana-sumo (lit. flower-sumo) as it is not taken as seriously by the wrestlers.
Honbasho last for 15 days. Sumo wrestlers ranked in the top two divisions (makuuchi and juryo) wrestle once each day, while those of the lower divisions wrestle seven times, approximately once every alternate day.
The first aim for most wrestlers is to achieve kachikoshi, or a majority of wins, and thus ensure a promotion for the next tournament. In addition for each division there is a championship prize (yūshō) for the wrestler with the most wins at the end. A playoff on the final day is used to decide the winner in case of a tie.
Official Website: sumo.or.jp
Photo Credit: Mikael