In North America, spring migration routes and breeding distribution of northern pintails Anas acuta vary because some individuals opportunistically nest at mid-latitudes in years when ephemeral prairie wetlands are available, whereas others regularly nest in arctic and sub-arctic regions where wetland abundance is more constant. Less was known about migration routes and breeding distribution of pintails in East Asia. From 2007–2009 we marked 198 pintails on their wintering areas in Japan with satellite transmitters to: 1) document spring migration routes and summer distribution, 2) evaluate migratory connections and breeding season sympatry with North American pintails, and 3) determine if pintails used the same migration routes in fall as in spring. Most pintails (67%) migrated to the Kamchatka or Chukotka peninsulas in eastern Russia either directly from Japan or via Sakhalin Island, Russia. Remaining pintails primarily migrated to the Magadan region or Kolyma River Basin in eastern Russia via Sakhalin Island. The Chukotka Peninsula was the most common summer destination, with highest densities in the Anadyr Lowlands; a region also used by pintails that migrate from North America. One pintail migrated to St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, in spring and another briefly migrated to the western coast of Alaska in fall. Autumn migration routes generally mirrored spring migration although most pintails bypassed Sakhalin Island in fall. Compared to North American pintails, pintails that winter in Japan exhibited less variation in migration routes and breeding distribution, and nested at higher latitudes. In the Russian Far East there is no region with habitats comparable in extent to the ephemeral mid-latitude wetlands of North America. Consequently, East Asian pintails mainly nest in arctic and sub-arctic regions where annual consistency in wetlands promotes constancy in migration routes and breeding distribution. Breeding season sympatry between pintails from different continents results more from North American pintails migrating to eastern Russia than from Japanese pintails migrating to North America.