A tussle has broken out in Japan's tradition-bound sumo world over the right to wear pants in the ring.

Gargantuan sumo wrestlers generally compete naked but for a "mawashi," an arrangement of wrapped cloth that preserves a bare minimum of modesty.

Sumo's amateur association hit upon the idea of allowing shy youngsters to wear "sumo pants," a more substantial garment similar to cycling shorts, to try to boost the dwindling numbers of children taking up the sport, the daily Yomiuri Shimbun said on Thursday.

"Pubescent kids are not going to want to take part if they don't look cool," Yomiuri quoted one local amateur sumo official as saying.

The sport's professional body, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, however, has made clear that it will not allow wrestlers in pants to take part in youth tournaments at the venerable national stadium in Tokyo

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