The 167 series trains were developed from the earlier 165 series express-type EMU, and were introduced from 1965 for use on school excursion services. They were originally painted in the JNR excursion train livery of yellow No. 5 and red No. 3.
Following the privatization of JNR in 1987, JR East received 35 167 series vehicles, allocated to Tamachi Depot in Tokyo, and JR West received 16 vehicles, allocated to Miyahara Depot. The JR West fleet was withdrawn by 2001, and the JR East fleet was withdrawn by 2003.