They are drenched in sweat, their hands bloodied from clapping, and their voices hoarse from shouting — meet Japan's predominantly male and unashamedly macho "leadership section" cheerleaders.

The cheerleaders are part of a century-old tradition that some fear faces an existential crisis, with fewer students showing an interest in the hardcore art form.

And now there is a push for the squads and their counterparts in Japan's traditional ōendan cheering groups to be registered as part of the country's "intangible" cultural heritage.